Nanotechnology Now







Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Getting a charge from changes in humidity

As Bacilli bacteria dry out and form spores (shown here), they wrinkle, and as they rehydrate, they swell. A team lead by former Wyss Institute resident scholar Ozgur Sahin harnessed these humidity-driven changes to power an actuator and generate electricity. Credit: Xi Chen/Columbia University
As Bacilli bacteria dry out and form spores (shown here), they wrinkle, and as they rehydrate, they swell. A team lead by former Wyss Institute resident scholar Ozgur Sahin harnessed these humidity-driven changes to power an actuator and generate electricity.

Credit: Xi Chen/Columbia University

Abstract:
A new type of electrical generator uses bacterial spores to harness the untapped power of evaporating water, according to research conducted at the Wyss Institute of Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. Its developers foresee electrical generators driven by changes in humidity from sun-warmed ponds and harbors.



Spores Bending Latex Sheet A

Alternating the humidity between that of a humid, misty day and that of a dry, sunny one causes a spore-covered sheet of latex rubber to bend and straighten. A flexible, spore-covered material could be used as a humidity-driven actuator. Credit: Xi Chen/Columbia University.

Getting a charge from changes in humidity

Boston, MA | Posted on January 27th, 2014

The prototype generators work by harnessing the movement of a sheet of rubber coated on one side with spores. The sheet bends when it dries out, much as a pine cone opens as it dries or a freshly fallen leaf curls, and then straightens when humidity rises. Such bending back and forth means that spore-coated sheets or tiny planks can act as actuators that drive movement, and that movement can be harvested to generate electricity.

"If this technology is developed fully, it has a very promising endgame," said Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., who led the study, first at Harvard's Rowland Institute, later at the Wyss Institute, and most recently at Columbia University, where he's now an associate professor of biological sciences and physics. Sahin collaborated with Wyss Institute Core Faculty member L. Mahadevan, Ph.D., who is also the Lola England de Valpine professor of applied mathematics, organismic and evolutionary biology, and physics at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University, and Adam Driks,Ph.D., a professor of microbiology and immunology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. The researchers reported their work yesterday in Nature Nanotechnology.

Water evaporation is the largest power source in nature, Sahin said. "Sunlight hits the ocean, heats it up, and energy has to leave the ocean through evaporation," he explained. "If you think about all the ice on top of Mt. Everest — who took this huge amount of material up there? There's energy in evaporation, but it's so subtle we don't see it."

But until now no one has tapped that energy to generate electricity.

As Sahin pursued the idea of a new humidity-driven generator, he realized that Mahadevan had been investigating similar problems from a physical perspective. Specifically, he had characterized how moisture deforms materials, including biological materials such as pinecones, leaves and flowers, as well as man-made materials such as a sheet of tissue paper lying in a dish of water.

Sahin collaborated with Mahadevan and Driks on one of those studies. A soil bacterium called Bacillus subtilis wrinkles as it dries out like a grape becoming a raisin, forming a tough, dormant spore. The results, which they reported in 2012 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, explained why.

Unlike raisins, which cannot re-form into grapes, spores can take on water and almost immediately restore themselves to their original shape. Sahin realized that since they shrink reversibly, they had to be storing energy. In fact, spores would be particularly good at storing energy because they are rigid, yet still expand and contract a great deal, the researchers predicted.

"Since changing moisture levels deform these spores, it followed that devices containing these materials should be able to move in response to changing humidity levels," Mahadevan said. "Now Ozgur has shown very nicely how this could be used practically."

When Sahin first set out to measure the energy of spores, he was taken by surprise.

He put a solution thick with spores on a tiny, flexible silicon plank, expecting to measure the humidity-driven force in a customized atomic force microscope. But before he could insert the plank, he saw it curving and straightening with his naked eye. His inhaling and exhaling had changed the humidity subtly, and the spores had responded.

"I realized then that this was extremely powerful," Sahin said.

In fact, simply increasing the humidity from that of a dry, sunny day to a humid, misty one enabled the flexible, spore-coated plank to generate 1000 times as much force as human muscle, and at least 10 times as much as other materials engineers currently use to build actuators, Sahin discovered. In fact, moistening a pound of dry spores would generate enough force to lift a car one meter off the ground.

To build such an actuator, Sahin tested how well spore-coated materials such as silicon, rubber, plastic, and adhesive tape stored energy, settling on rubber as the most promising material.

Then he built a simple humidity-driven generator out of Legos™, a miniature fan, a magnet and a spore-coated cantilever. As the cantilever flips back and forth in response to moisture, it drives a rotating magnet that produces electricity.

Sahin's prototype captures just a small percentage of the energy released by evaporation, but it could be improved by genetically engineering the spores to be stiffer and more elastic. Indeed, in early experiments, spores of a mutant strain provided by Driks stored twice as much energy as normal strains.

"Solar and wind energy fluctuate dramatically when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow, and we have no good way of storing enough of it to supply the grid for long," said Wyss Institute Founding Director Don Ingber, M.D., Ph.D. "If changes in humidity could be harnessed to generate electricity night and day using a scaled up version of this new generator, it could provide the world with a desperately needed new source of renewable energy."

For more on the potential of this spore-containing actuator and generator, see this short animation.

The work was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the Rowland Junior Fellows Program, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University. In addition to Sahin, Driks and Mahadevan, the authors included Xi Chen, a postdoctoral research associate at Columbia University.

####

About Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard
The Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University (wyss.harvard.edu) uses Nature's design principles to develop bioinspired materials and devices that will transform medicine and create a more sustainable world. Working as an alliance among Harvard's Schools of Medicine, Engineering, and Arts & Sciences, and in partnership with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston Children's Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Boston University, Tufts University, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the Institute crosses disciplinary and institutional barriers to engage in high-risk research that leads to transformative technological breakthroughs. By emulating Nature's principles for self-organizing and self-regulating, Wyss researchers are developing innovative new engineering solutions for healthcare, energy, architecture, robotics, and manufacturing. These technologies are translated into commercial products and therapies through collaborations with clinical investigators, corporate alliances, and new start-ups.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Kristen Kusek

617-432-8266

Copyright © Wyss Institute

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

‘Oxford Instruments Young Nanoscientist India Award 2015’ to Prof. Arindam Ghosh April 20th, 2015

Nondestructive 3-D Imaging of Biological Cells with Sound April 20th, 2015

Advances in molecular electronics: Lights on -- molecule on: Researchers from Dresden and Konstanz succeed in light-controlled molecule switching April 20th, 2015

Yale-NUS, NUS and UT Austin researchers establish theoretical framework for graphene physics: Making strides towards using graphene to create new electronic devices April 20th, 2015

Videos/Movies

Light in a spin: Researchers demonstrate angular accelerating light April 15th, 2015

Deben reports on the research of Dr Sunita Ho from UCSF using a CCT500 tensile stage to study the behaviour of dental materials April 14th, 2015

Promising future of quantum dots explored in conference: ‘20 Years of Quantum Dots at Los Alamos’ runs April 12-16 April 13th, 2015

A KAIST research team develops a hyper-stretchable elastic-composite energy harvester April 13th, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Better battery imaging paves way for renewable energy future April 20th, 2015

Quantum model reveals surface structure of water: National Physical Laboratory, IBM and Edinburgh University have used a new quantum model to reveal the molecular structure of water's liquid surface April 20th, 2015

Happily ever after: Scientists arrange protein-nanoparticle marriage: New biotech method could lead to development of HIV vaccine, targeted cancer treatment April 20th, 2015

New Biological Nano-Fertilizers Presented in Iran as Appropriate Replacements for Chemical Fertilizers April 18th, 2015

Discoveries

Ethylene Nanosorbent, a Novel Product to Decrease Agricultural Waste April 20th, 2015

Quantum model reveals surface structure of water: National Physical Laboratory, IBM and Edinburgh University have used a new quantum model to reveal the molecular structure of water's liquid surface April 20th, 2015

Happily ever after: Scientists arrange protein-nanoparticle marriage: New biotech method could lead to development of HIV vaccine, targeted cancer treatment April 20th, 2015

Advances in molecular electronics: Lights on -- molecule on: Researchers from Dresden and Konstanz succeed in light-controlled molecule switching April 20th, 2015

Announcements

Happily ever after: Scientists arrange protein-nanoparticle marriage: New biotech method could lead to development of HIV vaccine, targeted cancer treatment April 20th, 2015

Nondestructive 3-D Imaging of Biological Cells with Sound April 20th, 2015

Advances in molecular electronics: Lights on -- molecule on: Researchers from Dresden and Konstanz succeed in light-controlled molecule switching April 20th, 2015

Yale-NUS, NUS and UT Austin researchers establish theoretical framework for graphene physics: Making strides towards using graphene to create new electronic devices April 20th, 2015

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals/White papers

Better battery imaging paves way for renewable energy future April 20th, 2015

Quantum model reveals surface structure of water: National Physical Laboratory, IBM and Edinburgh University have used a new quantum model to reveal the molecular structure of water's liquid surface April 20th, 2015

Happily ever after: Scientists arrange protein-nanoparticle marriage: New biotech method could lead to development of HIV vaccine, targeted cancer treatment April 20th, 2015

Nondestructive 3-D Imaging of Biological Cells with Sound April 20th, 2015

Environment

Young NTU Singapore spin-off clinches S$4.3 million joint venture with Chinese commercial giant March 23rd, 2015

New processing technology converts packing peanuts to battery components March 22nd, 2015

EU Funded PCATDES Project has completed its half-period with success March 19th, 2015

Are current water treatment methods sufficient to remove harmful engineered nanoparticle? March 10th, 2015

Energy

Better battery imaging paves way for renewable energy future April 20th, 2015

Dais Analytic Corporation Appoints Eliza Wang to Board of Directors: Company's Newest Director Brings Expertise in Commercial and Legal Matters Both in the United States and China; Joins on the Heels of Successful Business Development Trade Mission to China April 18th, 2015

Major advance in artificial photosynthesis poses win/win for the environment: Berkeley Lab researchers perform solar-powered green chemistry with captured CO2 April 16th, 2015

Newly-Developed Nanocatalysts Increase Performance of Fuel Cells April 16th, 2015

Water

Quantum model reveals surface structure of water: National Physical Laboratory, IBM and Edinburgh University have used a new quantum model to reveal the molecular structure of water's liquid surface April 20th, 2015

Dais Analytic Corporation Appoints Eliza Wang to Board of Directors: Company's Newest Director Brings Expertise in Commercial and Legal Matters Both in the United States and China; Joins on the Heels of Successful Business Development Trade Mission to China April 18th, 2015

Iranian Scientists Produce Magnetic Recyclable Photocatalyst to Purify Polluted Water April 8th, 2015

Water makes wires even more nano: Rice University lab extends meniscus-mask process to make sub-10 nanometer paths April 6th, 2015

Research partnerships

Better battery imaging paves way for renewable energy future April 20th, 2015

Nondestructive 3-D Imaging of Biological Cells with Sound April 20th, 2015

Yale-NUS, NUS and UT Austin researchers establish theoretical framework for graphene physics: Making strides towards using graphene to create new electronic devices April 20th, 2015

Beyond the lithium ion -- a significant step toward a better performing battery April 18th, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project