By harnessing the energy stored in water molecules in the air, scientists have created materials with nanoholes that can attract electricity in any weather.
Scientists have managed to build a device that generates electricity from air, using just a pair of electrodes and a material filled with tiny holes, less than 100 nanometers in diameter. Using the humidity in the air and harvesting the charge provided by the suspended liquid, and working in any climate, the technology promises a future full of clean and practical energy.
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Is there electricity in the air?
Yes there is! In fact, each water molecule carries a charge with it. The tiny holes in the film are small enough for water to pass through, generating electricity from the accumulation of molecules. It is an imitation of the process by which clouds generate the electricity discharged in lightning.
A moisture is always in the air, regardless of the percentage we control over time. As a result, the technology works in any weather condition, already gaining an advantage over other “less reliable” systems, such as solar power and the wind energyas they depend on the sun or wind to work efficiently.
Knowing clouds and lightning scientifically, it is common to ask why we don’t exploit this energy – with the answer being that it is difficult to capture such high charges and, above all, to store them so quickly. Jun Yao and his team of scientists from the University of Massachusetts Amherst then came up with the idea of building their own replica of the natural world.
Previously, scientists had built a device that uses a protein derived from bacteria to generate electricity from air humidity. From this they realized that many other materials could be used for the same purpose, as long as the holes drilled in them were small enough. This type of device, which the team calls an “Air-gen,” can be made from a variety of organic, inorganic, and biological materials—basically anything that exists.
The science of energy production
The air molecules travel about 100 nanometers—each measurement is less than a millionth the width of a human hair—until they collide. When water passes through a thin material full of tiny holes, the electric charge tends to build up on top of the material.
As fewer molecules reach the bottom, a charge imbalance arises, like in a cloud. The electrodes on both sides then supply electricity to any device that needs power. This becomes a moisture-powered battery, an excellent source of renewable energy and widely available.
Because the material used is extremely thin, it can be stacked by the thousands and can generate several kilowatts of energy. Now it will be necessary to scale the invention so that it works both with small devices – such as wearables, like smartwatches – and for an entire house, generating enough electricity to power all your appliances.
For this to be possible, Yao’s team still needs to figure out how to collect electricity from a large surface area and how best to stack the sheets of material vertically, improving the output of the device without taking up extra space. The initiative is among many, such as the one intended for generate energy from human heatwhat are you looking for generate energy in the shadows and what you want filter water and generate power from the same device.
Source: Advanced material
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