Massachusetts University scientists have developed a device that makes use of a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, new technology they are saying could have vital implications for the future of renewables, climate change, and in the future of medication.
As featured in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovely at UMass have created a device they call an Air-generator or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires made by the microbe Geobacter.
The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.
The new technology developed in Yao’s lab is non-polluting, renewable, and low-cost.
It can generate power even in areas with extraordinarily low humidity, such as the Sahara Desert. It has significant benefits over different forms of renewable power along with solar and wind, Lovely says, as a result of in contrast to these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen doesn’t require sunlight, and “it even works indoors.”
The Air-gen device requires only a skinny movie of protein nanowires less than 10 microns in thickness, the researchers say.
The bottom of the film sets on an electrode, while a smaller wire that covers a part of the nanowire film sits on prime. The film adsorbs water vapor from the environment.
A mix of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires, paired with the delicate pores between the nanowires inside the film, establishes the conditions that generate an electrical current between the two wires.