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For any copyright, please send me a message. University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers have created the gadget that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air. Scientists hope this cutting-edge tech could revolutionise renewable energy, with significant implications for climate change. Electrical engineer Dr Jun Yao and microbiologist Dr Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst dubbed the device the “Air-gen” or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the Geobacter microbe. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires, generating electrical current from water vapour in the atmosphere. Dr Yao said: “We are literally making electricity out of thin air. “The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7.” Dr Lovely, who has advanced sustainable biology-based electronic materials over three decades, added, “It’s the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet.” The new technology developed in Yao’s lab is non-polluting, renewable and low-cost. The device can generate power in even the world’s least humid areas such as the Sahara Desert. The Air-gen boasts significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, Dr Lovley claims, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and “it even works indoors.” READ MORE NASA warns 1.5 million tons of solar material blast Earth every second The technology requires only a thin film of protein nanowires less than 10 microns thick. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on top. This film adsorbs water vapour from the atmosphere, while a combination of the electrical conductivity and surface chemistry of the protein nanowires, coupled with the fine pores between the nanowires within the film, establishes the conditions capable of generating an electrical current between the two electrodes. The researchers believe the current generation of Air-gen devices are able to power small electronics, and hope to bring the invention to commercial scale soon. Trending Next steps they plan include developing a small Air-gen “patch” to power electronic wearables such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches. This wold eliminate the requirement for traditional batteries. The researchers also aim to develop Air-gens to apply to mobile phones to eliminate periodic charging. Dr Yao said, “The ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems. “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. “Once we g
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