Latest game-changing research on new method to produce Electricity from Humidity in air

Credit: Umass Amherst (New technology can generate electricity from humidity in air)

Game-changing research from scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have created a unique substance that has the ability to generate electricity from moisture present in the atmosphere. This breakthrough technology utilizes nanopores, minute openings, to harness this energy.

In their research article, Generic Air-Gen Effect in Nanoporous Materials for Sustainable Energy Harvesting from Air Humidity”, authors Xiaomeng Liu, Hongyan gao, Lu Sun, and Jun Yao, stated a method to harvest electricity using a special material developed by them. This material consists of pores which have a diameter of 100 nanometers. These pores are called ‘nanopores’.

The authors started with the problem of the current methods of producing electricity being unavailable for a continuous time. The sustainable energies in our modern world consist of solar energy and wind energy which are unpredictable and not available all of the time.

This led them to looking for a source of energy that is sustainable and forever at our arms reach. Air is all around us, like fish are in water, we are in air. The authors found that air humidity can be easily available reservoir of sustainable energy.

How it was made

Jun Yao, one of the authors of the paper and an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, simplified the concept in a press statement using the metaphor of a cloud. Imagine a cloud, which is essentially a collection of water droplets. Each of these droplets carries an electric charge, and under specific circumstances, the cloud can generate a lightning bolt.

However, he states that we have yet to discover a dependable method for effectively harnessing electricity from lightning. Yao is He further explained that the mentioned material their team of researchers have engineered is a miniature artificial cloud capable of reliably and continuously generating electricity, which can be collected for practical use.

In 2020, the researchers had published an article titled “Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires”. This was the first step the team had taken towards producing electricity through air. In this previous research they made use of the bacteria Geobacter sulferreducens to make nanowires and developed a material from said nanowires.

However, when they went further into this research, the discovered that this generation of electricity from air, “air-gen” concept, was not limited to the material they had made using nanowires. They found that as long as the material consists of nanopores, any material in the world can be used to convert humidity in the air into electricity.

How it works

The research team constructed an electricity-harvesting device based on this design. The device consisted of a thin layer of material containing nanopores, which facilitated the movement of water molecules from the upper portion to the lower portion. Due to the minute size of each pore, the water molecules would collide with the edges as they passed through the thin layer.

This collision resulted in a greater number of charge-carrying molecules impacting the upper part of the layer compared to the lower part, leading to the establishment of a charge imbalance. This disparity in charge between the upper and lower sections effectively created a battery-like system. This “battery” can operate as long as there is moisture present in the atmosphere.

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