Scientists in the US have developed a device that can harvest moisture in the air to supply clean electricity.
A team of engineers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst is creating clean electricity out of thin air.
According to the university, “almost any material can be turned into a device that continuously harvests electricity from moisture in the air”.
The key, it says, lies in being able to fill the material with nanopores less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Researchers have dubbed this the “generic air-gene effect.”
In Research PaperIt explained, “air moisture is a vast, permanent store of energy that, unlike solar and wind, is continuously available”.
But until now, exploring the energy potential of wind has been a complex process – hindered, for example, by the development of unique materials synthesis and the resulting scalability.
However, the new study claims that with this revelation, we should be able to harness energy sustainably from “a wide range of inorganic, organic and biological materials”.
Using nanopores to create small-scale thunderclouds
The key lies in nanopores – a nanometer-sized hole that enables air and water to pass through “any material” and eventually create a charge on the surface.
The harvester would need to be made from a thin layer of material filled with nanopores smaller than 100 nm (one-thousandth of a human hair).
Because these holes are so small, as water molecules move from the top to the bottom of the material, they will collide with the edges of the pore, creating a charge.
The upper part of the layer would be bombarded with many more charge-carrying water molecules than the lower part, creating a charge imbalance—like the charge imbalance found in a cloud.
So it produces what is essentially a small-scale, contained thunderstorm – which in turn produces lightning.
“There is a tremendous amount of electricity in the air,” jun yaoassistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMass Amherst, said in a statement.
“Think of a cloud as nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets carries a charge, and when the conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt—but We don’t know how to get electricity from electricity.
“What we’ve done is to create a human-made, small-scale cloud that produces lightning predictably and consistently for us to harvest it”.
Moisture is constantly present in the air, which means the harvester can theoretically work 24/7 in any conditions.
“The idea is simple, but it’s never been explored before, and it opens up all kinds of possibilities,” Yao said.
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