Nearly any material can be used to turn the energy in air humidity into electricity, scientists found in a discovery that could lead to continuously producing clean energy with little pollution.
The research, published in a paper in Advanced Materials, builds on 2020 work that first showed energy could be pulled from the moisture in the air using material harvested from bacteria. The new study shows nearly any material can be used, like wood or silicon, as long as it can be smashed into small particles and remade with microscopic pores. But there are many questions about how to scale the product.
“What we have invented, you can imagine it’s like a small-scale, man-made cloud,” said Jun Yao, a professor of engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the senior author of the study. “This is really a very easily accessible, enormous source of continuous clean electricity. Imagine having clean electricity available wherever you go.”
That could include a forest, while hiking on a mountain, in a desert, in a rural village or on the road.
The air-powered generator, known as an “Air-gen,” would offer continuous clean electricity since it uses the energy from humidity, which is always present, rather than depending on the sun or wind. Unlike solar panels or wind turbines, which need specific environments to thrive, Air-gens could conceivably go anywhere, Yao said. [Continue reading…]