Researchers at the University of Massachusetts claimed to have discovered a way to create energy out of thin air. They have developed a tiny device that generates electricity from air humidity, which could give a major boost to the clean energy aspirations of the planet.
The researchers are of the view that since air has humidity all the time – the device, using its harvest prowess, could generate energy 24×7 or in other words, present itself as a source of limitless energy.
The science behind the discovery is fairly simple and innocuous. Air contains enormous amounts of electricity and clouds – which are masses of water droplets and each droplet contains a charge which can produce a lightning bolt. Up until now, we didn’t know how to reliably capture that electricity from lightning. However, the study published in the journal Advanced Materials says we can use a broad range of inorganic, organic, and biological materials to capture it.
Essentially, the researchers have created a small-scale cloud that produces electricity. As long as the device includes holes smaller than 100 nanometers, it can be used to generate electricity.
“This is very exciting. We are opening up a wide door for harvesting clean electricity from thin air,” said Xiaomeng Liu, a graduate student and one of the paper’s lead authors.
“The idea is simple, but it’s never been discovered before, and it opens all kinds of possibilities. You could image harvesters made of one kind of material for rainforest environments and another for more arid regions,” added Jun Yao, a co-author of the new paper.
Other scientific breakthroughs
In the quest to generate electricity out of thin air, researchers at Monash University in Melbourne also made some remarkable breakthroughs. The scientists discovered a hydrogen-consuming enzyme from a common soil bacterium that uses the atmosphere as an energy source to generate electrical current.
The enzyme discovered is called Huc (pronounced “Huck”) and is made by Mycobacterium smegmatis bacteria, allowing it to survive in harsh conditions.
The scientists said the early applications of Huc include powering small air-powered devices which could act as an alternative to solar-powered devices.
The next step involved is to scale up the production so that Huc can be produced in sufficient quantities to be used at a meaningful scale.