Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst built a device that draws which uses a type of natural protein to produce electric power.
The device, scientists dubbed “Air-gen”, generates electricity from moisture in the surroundings. It makes contact with an electrically conductive protein nanowire circuit derived from the Geobacter microbe (Geobacter sulfurreducens). Electrodes are then arrayed together with the protein nanowires, generating an electric current.
This tech will make it easier to generate renewable energy without the restrictions that other methods have. For instance, unfavourable weather conditions and unsuitable locations affect the consistency of solar-generated energy. It can also work in low humidity areas, even in a desert.
The technology doesn’t pollute the environment as it operates indoors (unlike solar or wind generators) and is cheap to produce. Its thin profile allows it to potentially be used in wearables like smartwatches, health and fitness monitors. This would eliminate the need for small batteries and has the potential to keep phones optimally charged.
The technology has the potential to be produced at an industrial scale. It may be wrapped along walls to power homes and off-grid establishments.
In the words of electrical engineer Jun Yao one of the researchers behind the invention, “[t]his is just the beginning of a new era of protein-based electronic devices.”, adding that the scientists are “[…] literally making electricity out of thin air.”