In a world where we’re always on the lookout for new ways to generate clean energy, a team of UMass researchers has found a way to generate electricity from thin air. That’s right, you read that correctly. They’ve created a device that can harvest electricity from the humidity in the air.
The researchers, led by Jun Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMass Amherst, call their invention the “generic Air-gen effect”. The device is made of nearly any material that can be dotted with nanopores less than 100 nanometers in diameter. When water molecules pass through the device’s nanopores, they are separated into positively and negatively charged ions. These ions then collect on opposite sides of the device, creating a charge imbalance that generates a continuous stream of electricity.
And interestingly, this invention was inspired by an accident, much like some other advances in history. “To be frank, it was an accident,” Professor Jun Yao of the UMass Amherst School of Engineering, and lead author of the study told The Guardian. “We were actually interested in making a simple sensor for humidity in the air. But for whatever reason, the student who was working on that forgot to plug in the power.”
So, how much electricity can you generate from thin air? Well, that depends on how much humidity is in the air. In humid conditions, the device can generate up to 10 microwatts of power per square centimeter. That may not seem like much, but it’s enough to power small electronic devices like sensors or watches.
The new technology is still in its early stages, but researchers believe it has the potential to be a major breakthrough in the renewable energy field. Humidity is a sustainable source of energy that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If the technology can be deployed on a larger scale, it could provide a clean, environmentally friendly way to power our homes, businesses and appliances. For example, it could be used to monitor environmental conditions, track wildlife, or even power medical implants.
In addition to the environmental benefits, the new technology could also have a significant economic impact. The global renewable energy market is expected to reach $2.5 trillion by 2025.
Researchers at UMass Amherst are optimistic about the future of the technology. They are confident it will eventually lead to the development of commercial products. They are currently working with industry partners to develop prototypes and bring the technology to market. If they are successful in commercializing their technology, it could create a new industry and generate billions of dollars in revenue.