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Electricity from ‘thin air’

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If everything is to be electrically powered in future we need to be able to create clean electricity. Fortunately many scientists are working on this with some incredible results.

Perhaps the most intriguing is a collaboration between electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at the Universitiy of Massachusetts Amherst. They have created a device they call an “Air-gen” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. It has significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and “it even works indoors.” This is because the electricity is generated from water vapour naturally present in the air, it will even work with low levels of humidity such as those found in deserts.

Whilst this is only a lab version at the moment it is able to power small electronics and they are hoping to reach commercial scale soon. One of the recent advances has been to use E Coli instead of Geobactor to produce the nanowires, which brings down the cost considerably.

Read the full article here     or the press release from the University here

Or the research paper here