While we may struggle with the production of electricity and green power now, a recent discovery by the University of Massachusetts in Amherst has discovered something quite amazing. One day, in the not far away future-we may have the ability to create electricity from thin air.
Well, technically we already do, but let me explain how this happened and what that means for us. The study was published in the journal Nature in February 2020. The title is “Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires” and through this study, the researchers stumbled upon something quite amazing.
The project was started by electrical engineering student Xiaomeng Liu, who works in the lab with the study author Jun Yao, discovered a prototype that he had been working on and began doing something he didn’t expect. Even when he wasn’t running the machine, he was picking up on power output. “We were initially very perplexed,” Yao says.
The device was constructed of nanowires, which are quite conducive. Through time and testing, they found that Liu’s initial discovery wasn’t incorrect. The nanowires, which were constructed of protein, were able to produce energy, if under the right conditions.
In order for it to work, they had to have a thin film of nanowires sandwiched between two electrodes-with the top electrode exposing part of the film to air and the moisture in the air.
And even in areas where there is low humidity-the device is able to create electricity at a low cost and without any pollution.
“Human beings have a long history of utilizing water to produce electricity,” Yao explains in the paper. And he is right when you think about things like dams and hydroelectricity. But, this discovery still has a long way to go- as there are questions that remained unanswered.
For example, they are still uncertain as to whether this machine could be scaled to make larger amounts of electricity. In order to find out, more research would be necessary. Additionally, the bacteria that make nanowires can be difficult to grow in mass quantities.
Even still, this discovery could be massively important to the future of electricity if we find a way through the kinks. For now, we will just have to wait and see.