Today’s Solutions: January 19, 2022

Harvesting renewable energy offers the promise of a cleaner and greener planet, but solar and wind technologies tend to rely on specific environmental conditions that restrict where they can be deployed and limit their potential for continuous energy production. An experimental new device, however, offers the promise of generating energy straight out of the air.

Coming from researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the air-powered generator — or “Air-gen” — uses a natural protein to create electricity out of air moisture. And being that atmospheric moisture is ubiquitous, the technology is renewable, non-polluting and low-cost.

All the device needs is a thin film of protein nanowires, which both conducts electricity and gathers atmospheric water vapor to itself. In its turn, the water vapor’s movement across the conductor and electrodes is what generates a tiny but steady electric current.

The current “Air-gen” devices can already power small electronics. Now, the researchers are seeking to make large-scale systems, such as ones that could be incorporated into wall paint to power people’s homes.

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