Air-gen uses “sediment organism” for electricity out of thin airFebruary 21, 2020
A unique microbe can do unique things such as producing electrically conductive nanowires.
Researchers have found that a Geobacter genus bacteria first discovered over thirty years ago can practically generate electricity out of thin air using their newly developed Air-gen device.
The “sediment organism” was first recognized for producing magnetite without requiring oxygen.
More recently, scientists determined that the microbe could also essentially generate electricity out of thin air. It can, for instance, form bacterial nanowires with electrical conduction. The researchers have been examining this phenomenon for many years in the hopes of using this natural power source in some practical way. A team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst has just created a device called the Air-gen.
The device, says the team in a recent Science Alert report, can generate power out of nearly nothing.
“We are literally making electricity out of thin air,” explained Jun Yao, electrical engineer and part of the University of Massachusetts Amherst team. “The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7.”
Though this makes the Air-gen sound too good to be true, a new study published in Nature supports it.
Yao and his team conducted a study describing precisely how the air-powered generator can produce electricity with nothing more than the air already present. It uses bacteria, G. sulfurrenducens, to produce electrically conductive protein nanowires.
The device is made of a thin film composed of the protein nanowires. It measures 7 micrometers in thickness. This is placed between two electrodes with air exposure. The nanowire film is able to absorb water vaper from the air which naturally exists in the atmosphere. With it, the device is capable of continuous electrical current generation which is conducted between the two electrodes.
According to the team, the charge produced by the Air-gen is likely the result of a moisture gradient. That produces a proton diffusion within the material of the nanowire itself. “This charge diffusion is expected to induce a counterbalancing electrical field or potential analogous to the resting membrane potential in biological systems,” explained the study authors in their findings paper, which has been recently published in the Nature journal.