Researchers in the US developed an innovative air generator, which uses a protein to generate electricity, utilizing moisture in the air. New technology, to the extent more widely used, may in future help in the fight against climate change.
The microbiologists and electrical engineers of the University of Massachusetts- Amherst , where published the study in the journal Nature, named the device “Air-gen” (air generator).
The device uses electrically conductive protein nanowires, which are produced by the Geobacter germ. Electrodes are connected to protein nanowires in such a way that electricity is generated by water vapour in the atmosphere.
The new technology is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost. It can generate electricity even in areas with very low humidity, such as the Sahara Desert, having significant advantages over other renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind, as it requires neither sun nor wind while working even indoors.
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The device is based on a thin film of protein nanowires, less than ten micrometers thick (millionths of a meter). The bottom of the film abuts on an electrode, while a smaller electrode partially covers the top of the film. The film absorbs water vapour from the atmosphere and eventually produces current between the two electrodes.
For now, Air-gen can only power small electronic devices, while researchers plan to commercially exploit their invention. Among other things, they believe that their aero-generator will be able to provide power to “smart” watches, to other portable fitness monitoring devices, removing traditional small batteries.
At the end of the day, they hope that Air-gen could be integrated even into mobile phones, eliminating the need to charge their battery periodically.
The ultimate goal is to create large-scale air generators, which will supply electricity to entire buildings or integrate into the electricity grid, alongside the other power plants.