Graphic image of a thin film of protein nanowires generating electricity from atmospheric humidity. Credit: UMass Amherst/Yao and Lovley labs
Scientists Jun Yao and Derek Lovley at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device called "Air-gen" or air-powered generator, that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air.
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 they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine.
The new technology is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost. It can generate power even in areas with extremely low humidity such as the Sahara Desert. It has significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, Lovley says, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and "it even works indoors."