Teams of academics from the American University of Massachussets Amherst have managed to develop technology that allows to generate electricity from the air. Specifically, they have developed a device that uses a natural protein that can generate energy from moisture in the air.
The device is called Airgen and works by using an electrically conductive protein nanowire that is produced a Geobacter microbe. By connecting electrodes to these nanowires, the device can generate electrical current from water vapor in the atmosphere.
The research team is already looking for ways to potentially apply their invention in practice. The technology itself is inexpensive, totally renewable and clean, and does not need wind or sun in comparison to other sustainable energy sources and could work indoors.
Currently, Air-gen can produce enough electricity for small electronic devices. Due to the relatively small form factor of technology, the next logical step is to adapt it to power wearable devices such as smart watches and fitness wristbands.
Technology will, of course, need to go through further developments and improvements before it can produce electricity on a large scale. According to academics, the starting point for this could be its use in commercial electronics.
Academics believe that the technology could be implemented in smartphones, which would theoretically eliminate the need to charge them regularly. Like many other new power and battery technologies, the device has great potential.
However, the road for commercial use is likely to be a long one. In any case, scientists are more than optimistic about the future of their invention. “This is just the beginning of a new era of protein-based electronic devices,” said electrical engineer and team leader Jun Yao.