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. For reference, a human hair is roughly 75 microns across, depending on the person.
This nanowire film absorbs water vapor present in the atmosphere, thus creating a small electrical charge through the diffusion of protons in the material.
“I found that exposure to atmospheric humidity was essential and that protein nanowires adsorbed water, producing a voltage gradient across the device,” Yao said.
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.
Air-Gen reportedly produces a sustained voltage of 0.5 volts at 17 micro amperes per square centimeter; in other words, you’d need multiple Air-Gen devices linked together to charge your smartphone, so don’t throw out those solar panels just yet.
0.5 Volt and 17 micro ampere per centimeter, that would be 0.35 Watt/m2 or 0.5 Watt for a surface like that of 300 Watt standard panels.
Indeed, don’t throw away your solar panels. Useless.
[nature.com] – Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires
[wikipedia.org] – Geobacter
[rt.com] – Researchers produce electricity out of thin air
[umass.edu] – UMass Amherst Generates Electricity ‘Out of Thin Air’
[spiegel.de] – Forscher erzeugen Strom aus Luftfeuchtigkeit