Air-gen. The name might suggest a humidifier of some sort, but it’s actually a genius device that can create electricity out of “thin air”, more specifically out of water vapors.
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found a new way to harvest electricity. They’re using naturally occurring microbes called Geobacteria to turn them into electricity, as a more reliable renewable energy source.
How does it work? Air-gen counts on Geobacter that produces electrically conductive protein nanowires. The electricity is harnessed through electrodes that are connected to those nanowires. The resulting power is just enough to give life to small electronics.
That’s not disappointing, at all. In fact, it’s a proof of concept they can further test with wearables and smartphones before scaling it up to cars and homes. The team has already thought of several use cases where this type of green energy would work wonders: “For example, the technology might be incorporated into wall paint that could help power your home. Or, we may develop stand-alone air-powered generators that supply electricity off the grid.”
The team has also worked on a new microbial strain to mass produce protein nanowires fast and with minimal costs. “We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory,” he said. “With this new scalable process, protein nanowire supply will no longer be a bottleneck to developing these applications.”