Tech UPTechnologyThey manage to generate electricity from nothing

They manage to generate electricity from nothing

Most of the world’s electricity still comes from burning life forms that were dead 100 million years ago, fossil fuels, but fortunately, novel and ingenious alternatives keep appearing. The latest one they have presented uses protein nanowires to extract electricity from moisture in the air. Its name is Air-gen, air generator.

The device in question is a thin film just 10 microns thick made of nanometer-scale protein wires collected from the Geobacter sulfurreducens microbe that can generate continuous electrical energy in the environment, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

The new device is the brainchild of microbiologist Derek Lovley and electrical engineer Jun Yao, both from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

“We are literally producing electricity out of nowhere . The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7. It is the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet,” explains Jun Yao, electrical engineer. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and co-author of the work.

It may sound like an exaggeration to “produce electricity from nothing,” but the research describes how an air-powered generator can create electricity with nothing but the presence of air around it. The key lies in the film of electrically conductive protein nanowires placed between two electrodes and also exposed to air. The pores in the film absorb atmospheric water vapor and a humidity gradient induces ionization, with positive charges diffusing in one direction and electrons in the other.


Added benefits

It is not polluting and can be produced at low cost . Unlike other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind – it also works indoors – and can generate power even in areas with extremely low humidity, such as the Sahara desert.

And is that some attempts to produce electricity from new sources are based on incredibly expensive raw materials. However, the nanowire film, being made up of Geobacter bacteria, is an affordable component. The electrodes were made of gold leaf, but substitution with inert carbon worked just as well.

On a laboratory scale, Air-gen’s energy density is high compared to most current renewable energy devices. The prototype produced 0.5 sustained volts / cm2 at best, about a fifth of a solar panel in full sunlight, with a current density of 17 µA / cm2.

The next step is to include the development of a small Air-gen “patch” that can power electronic electronic devices such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches, eliminating the requirement for traditional batteries. It could even be applied to mobiles to eliminate periodic charging.

“The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems,” he concluded. Yao.


Referencia: Xiaomeng Liu, Hongyan Gao, Joy E. Ward, Xiaorong Liu, Bing Yin, Tianda Fu, Jianhan Chen, Derek R. Lovley, Jun Yao. Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires. Nature, 2020; DOI: 10.1038/ s41586-020-2010-9

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