Making Electricity Out of Thin Air

The current Air-gen device can power small electronics

The current Air-gen device can power small electronics

The researchers also aim to develop Air-gens to apply to mobile phones to eliminate periodic charging.

Batteries in our smartphones are acquiring even bigger and much better, but the various day battery lifetime being claimed by some brands pales in comparison to hardly ever owning to be concerned about charging your cellular phone.

The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires, generating electrical current from water vapour in the atmosphere.

"We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory", microbiologist Derek Lovley, who first identified Geobacter microbes like G. sulfurreducens back in the 1980s, said.

The brand new expertise developed in Yao's lab is non-polluting, renewable, and low-price. "The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7".

Now the Air-gen is only powerful enough for small electronic devices, but its developers want to scale up. Or, we may develop stand-alone air-powered generators that supply electricity off the grid. 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".

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Similar experiments have been conducted previously using nano materials like graphene, but they only produced intermittent, short bursts of electricity, rather than a "continuous voltage output" like the Air Gen system.

The Air-gen machine requires exclusively a skinny movie of protein nanowires lower than 10 microns thick, the researchers clarify.

The system is quite straightforward and consists of a thin film of protein nanowire just seven micrometers (sometimes known as a microns) thick which is positioned between two electrodes and exposed to the air.

The scientists recently engineered a new microbial strain to more rapidly and inexpensively mass produce the protein wires.

"It's the most wonderful and exciting application of protein nanowires yet", said Lovley.

"With this new scalable process, protein nanowire supply will no longer be a bottleneck in developing these applications".

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The Air-gen discovery reflects an unusual interdisciplinary collaboration, they say.

They found it buried in the muddy shores of the Potomac River more than three decades ago: a odd "sediment organism" that could do things nobody had ever seen before in bacteria. It's all thanks to the electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by Geobacter (G. sulfurreducens, in this instance).

According to researchers at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst in the USA.

"I observed that when the nanowires ended up contacted with electrodes in a particular way the gadgets created a recent".

The film absorbs water vapour from the atmosphere and starts generating electricity using a combination of electrical conductivity, surface chemistry of protein nanowires and fine pores between nanowires in the film.

Yao adds that the current applications are "just the beginning of a new era of protein-based electronic devices". Now, the researchers are seeking to bring their innovation to commercial scale.

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