Some scientific breakthroughs are so amazing they sound too good to be true, and this one definitely sounds amazing. But think of all the other amazing things happening around us right now, including things that were hard to believe would happen not very long ago. With that context in mind, imagine a way to generate electricity that does not rely on fossil fuels, does not require wind turbines, does not require directly harnessing atomic power and does not even require connection to solar panels to capture light.
The breakthrough below is not claiming magic. It claims to generate electricity from a combination of moisture in air and a special electricity conductive nanowire produced by a microbe.
Working systems in the lab show promise, but keep in mind this is a long way from large scale sustainable power generation, even though this is the goal.
More from Amherst:
As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an “Air-gen.” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.
“We are literally making electricity out of thin air,” says Yao. “The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7.” Lovely, who has advanced sustainable biology-based electronic materials over three decades, adds, “It’s the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet.”
The new technology developed in Yao’s lab is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost. It can generate power even in areas with extremely low humidity such as the Sahara Desert. It has significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, Lovley says, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and “it even works indoors.”
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