It sounds like an air number, but it has potential: Scientists used bacteria to produce electricity from water vapor. In the future, cell phones could be operated with it.
Whether human-made climate change can be stopped depends largely on how we generate energy in the future. Because the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal or gas contributes significantly to the greenhouse effect. Only the expansion and development of renewable energies are considered environmentally friendly.
Now researchers have developed a whole new approach to electricity production. A team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst generated electricity from air humidity for the first time. For this purpose, the scientists constructed a device called “Air-Gen”, which they report on in the journal “Nature” .
“The electricity is literally out of thin air,” says Jun Yao, electrical engineer and co-author of the study. “The Air-Gen generates clean energy around the clock.”
Generating electricity using bacteria
The “Air-gen” contains conductive protein nanowires that are naturally produced by Geobacter microorganisms. These wires form a film less than ten microns thick. This film in turn connects electrodes so that electricity is generated from the water vapor bound in the atmosphere. The prerequisite for this is the right combination of electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires and of fine pores between the nanowires.
According to the researchers, the new technology is environmentally friendly, renewable and inexpensive. You can generate electricity even in areas with extremely low humidity, such as the Sahara. In contrast to other renewable energy sources such as sun or wind, the “Air-Gen” even works indoors.
Researchers are planning air generators for cell phones
So far, the “Air-Gen” is still in an early development phase. However, the scientists hope that the device will soon be ready for the market. The next step is to plan the operation of small electronic devices such as fitness watches. They also want to develop air generators for mobile phones that could make regular charging unnecessary.
“The overarching goal is to manufacture large systems,” says Yao. One day, the technology could be integrated into wall colors to support the electricity supply to houses. “Once we have reached the industrial standard for wire production, I assume that we can manufacture systems that will make an important contribution to sustainable energy production.”