Table of contents:
- Electric current from naturally available water vapor
- Environmentally friendly, renewable and inexpensive
- How the Air-Gen device works
- Current Air-Gen device operates small electronic devices
- New bacterial strain for mass production
- Protein-based electronic devices
Video: New Device Generates Electricity From Air
2023 Author: Hannah Pearcy | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-24 11:12
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a bacterial protein to generate electricity from air humidity. In her opinion, this new technology could have a significant impact on the future of renewable energies, climate change and the future of medicine.
Electric current from naturally available water vapor
As the journal Nature reports, electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley have developed what they call “Air-gen”. It consists of electrically conductive protein nanowires, which are produced by the microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens. The device connects electrodes to the protein nanowires so that electricity is generated from the water vapor that is naturally present in the atmosphere.
Environmentally friendly, renewable and inexpensive
The new technology is environmentally friendly, renewable and inexpensive. It is said to be able to generate electricity even in areas with extremely low humidity, such as the desert. According to the scientist, it has considerable advantages over other forms of renewable energy such as sun and wind, because it does not require sunlight or wind and should also work indoors.
How the Air-Gen device works
The Air-Gen device only requires a thin film of protein nanowires with a thickness of less than 10 µm, the researchers explain. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on the top. The film adsorbs atmospheric moisture from the atmosphere. A combination of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires coupled with the fine pores between the nanowires within the film creates the conditions that create an electrical current between the two electrodes.
According to the researchers, the Air-Gen device is able to generate a sustained voltage of approximately 0.5 V across a 7 µm thick layer and a current of approximately 17 µA per cm 2. By interconnecting several devices, the voltage and current can be scaled up linearly.
Current Air-Gen device operates small electronic devices
The researchers say that the current Air-Gen devices are able to operate small electronic devices. They expect the invention to be commercialized soon. As the next steps, they plan to develop a small Air Gen “patch”. This should be able to supply electronic devices such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches with electricity, which would make the conventional batteries unnecessary. They also hope that cellphone technology can be developed to replace periodic charging.
Project wants to use electricity from bacteria for batteries
Environmentally friendly fuel from wastewater and renewable energies
New bacterial strain for mass production
To further advance Geobacter's practical biological capabilities, Lovley's laboratory recently developed a new strain of bacteria that can mass-produce protein nanowires faster and more cost-effectively. “We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory,” he says. "With this new scalable process, the supply of protein nanowires will no longer be a bottleneck for the development of these applications."
Protein-based electronic devices
Lovley discovered the Geobacter microbe over 30 years ago. His laboratory later discovered their ability to produce electrically conductive protein nanowires.
In addition to the Air Gen, the Yao laboratory has developed several other applications with the protein nanowires. "This is just the beginning of a new era of protein-based electronic devices," said Yao.