Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors
Heifer International



Home > Press > New green technology from UMass Amherst generates electricity 'out of thin air' Renewable device could help mitigate climate change, power medical devices

Graphic image of a thin film of protein nanowires generating electricity from atmospheric humidity. UMass Amherst researchers say the device can literally make electricity out of thin air.

CREDIT
UMass Amherst/Yao and Lovley labs
Graphic image of a thin film of protein nanowires generating electricity from atmospheric humidity. UMass Amherst researchers say the device can literally make electricity out of thin air. CREDIT UMass Amherst/Yao and Lovley labs

Abstract:
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device that uses a natural protein to create electricity from moisture in the air, a new technology they say could have significant implications for the future of renewable energy, climate change and in the future of medicine.

New green technology from UMass Amherst generates electricity 'out of thin air' Renewable device could help mitigate climate change, power medical devices

Amherst, MA | Posted on February 17th, 2020

As reported today in Nature, the laboratories of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley at UMass Amherst have created a device they call an "Air-gen." or air-powered generator, with electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by the microbe Geobacter. The Air-gen connects electrodes to the protein nanowires in such a way that electrical current is generated from the water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere.

"We are literally making electricity out of thin air," says Yao. "The Air-gen generates clean energy 24/7." Lovely, who has advanced sustainable biology-based electronic materials over three decades, adds, "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. It can generate power even in areas with extremely low humidity such as the Sahara Desert. It has significant advantages over other forms of renewable energy including solar and wind, Lovley says, because unlike these other renewable energy sources, the Air-gen does not require sunlight or wind, and "it even works indoors."

The Air-gen device requires only a thin film of protein nanowires less than 10 microns thick, the researchers explain. The bottom of the film rests on an electrode, while a smaller electrode that covers only part of the nanowire film sits on top. The film adsorbs water vapor from the atmosphere. 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 that generate an electrical current between the two electrodes.

The researchers say that the current generation of Air-gen devices are able to power small electronics, and they expect to bring the invention to commercial scale soon. Next steps they plan include developing a small Air-gen "patch" that can power electronic wearables such as health and fitness monitors and smart watches, which would eliminate the requirement for traditional batteries. They also hope to develop Air-gens to apply to cell phones to eliminate periodic charging.

Yao says, "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 get to an industrial scale for wire production, I fully expect that we can make large systems that will make a major contribution to sustainable energy production."

Continuing to advance the practical biological capabilities of Geobacter, Lovley's lab recently developed a new microbial strain to more rapidly and inexpensively mass produce protein nanowires. "We turned E. coli into a protein nanowire factory," he says. "With this new scalable process, protein nanowire supply will no longer be a bottleneck to developing these applications."

The Air-gen discovery reflects an unusual interdisciplinary collaboration, they say. Lovley discovered the Geobacter microbe in the mud of the Potomac River more than 30 years ago. His lab later discovered its ability to produce electrically conductive protein nanowires. Before coming to UMass Amherst, Yao had worked for years at Harvard University, where he engineered electronic devices with silicon nanowires. They joined forces to see if useful electronic devices could be made with the protein nanowires harvested from Geobacter.

Xiaomeng Liu, a Ph.D. student in Yao's lab, was developing sensor devices when he noticed something unexpected. He recalls, "I saw that when the nanowires were contacted with electrodes in a specific way the devices generated a current. I found that that exposure to atmospheric humidity was essential and that protein nanowires adsorbed water, producing a voltage gradient across the device."

###

In addition to the Air-gen, Yao's laboratory has developed several other applications with the protein nanowires. "This is just the beginning of new era of protein-based electronic devices" said Yao.

The research was supported in part from a seed fund through the Office of Technology Commercialization and Ventures at UMass Amherst and research development funds from the campus's College of Natural Sciences.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Janet Lathrop

413-545-2989

@umassscience

Copyright © University of Massachusetts Amherst

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

Hanging by a thread: Imaging and probing chains of single atoms: Scientists develop a method to visualize monoatomic chains and measure the strength and conductance of single-atom bonds May 14th, 2021

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology May 14th, 2021

New technology enables rapid sequencing of entire genomes of plant pathogens May 14th, 2021

Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials May 14th, 2021

Possible Futures

Emergence of a new heteronanostructure library May 14th, 2021

New technology enables rapid sequencing of entire genomes of plant pathogens May 14th, 2021

Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials May 14th, 2021

You're so vein: Scientists discover faster way to manufacture vascular materials May 14th, 2021

Discoveries

Emergence of a new heteronanostructure library May 14th, 2021

Hanging by a thread: Imaging and probing chains of single atoms: Scientists develop a method to visualize monoatomic chains and measure the strength and conductance of single-atom bonds May 14th, 2021

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology May 14th, 2021

You're so vein: Scientists discover faster way to manufacture vascular materials May 14th, 2021

Announcements

Emergence of a new heteronanostructure library May 14th, 2021

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology May 14th, 2021

New technology enables rapid sequencing of entire genomes of plant pathogens May 14th, 2021

Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials May 14th, 2021

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

Hanging by a thread: Imaging and probing chains of single atoms: Scientists develop a method to visualize monoatomic chains and measure the strength and conductance of single-atom bonds May 14th, 2021

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology May 14th, 2021

New technology enables rapid sequencing of entire genomes of plant pathogens May 14th, 2021

Harvesting light like nature does:Synthesizing a new class of bio-inspired, light-capturing nanomaterials May 14th, 2021

Patents/IP/Tech Transfer/Licensing

Arrowhead Pharmaceuticals Announces Closing of Agreement with Takeda November 27th, 2020

HORIBA Medical and CEA-Leti Strengthen Their Partnership to Develop Tomorrow’s Diagnostics at the Point of Care July 21st, 2020

A new study published on the cover of Science could bolster the development of batteries, fuel cells, 3D printing technologies and more May 1st, 2020

The Wave of the Future: Researchers achieve first successful generation and detection of pure spin currents in antiferromagnetic materials January 29th, 2020

Energy

Emergence of a new heteronanostructure library May 14th, 2021

A silver lining for extreme electronics April 30th, 2021

Less innocent than it looks: Hydrogen in hybrid perovskites: Researchers identify the defect that limits solar-cell performance April 30th, 2021

Wearable sensors that detect gas leaks April 19th, 2021

Grants/Sponsored Research/Awards/Scholarships/Gifts/Contests/Honors/Records

Hanging by a thread: Imaging and probing chains of single atoms: Scientists develop a method to visualize monoatomic chains and measure the strength and conductance of single-atom bonds May 14th, 2021

Nanophotonics enhanced coverslip for phase imaging in biology May 14th, 2021

New brain-like computing device simulates human learning: Researchers conditioned device to learn by association, like Pavlov's dog April 30th, 2021

Silver ions hurry up, then wait as they disperse: Rice chemists show ions’ staged release from gold-silver nanoparticles could be useful property April 23rd, 2021

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




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project