A new study published in Nature entitled “Power generation from ambient humidity using protein nanowires” has discovered an interesting way to harvest energy from the environment, creating the potential for another clean power generating system that is self-sustaining. According to the authors,
“thin-film devices made from nanometre-scale protein wires harvested from the microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens can generate continuous electric power in the ambient environment. The devices produce a sustained voltage of around 0.5 volts across a 7-micrometre-thick film, with a current density of around 17 microamperes per square centimetre. We find the driving force behind this energy generation to be a self-maintained moisture gradient that forms within the film when the film is exposed to the humidity that is naturally present in air.”
The study also mentions that “connecting several devices linearly scales up the voltage and current to power electronics” and that their results “demonstrate the feasibility of a continuous energy-harvesting strategy that is less restricted by location or environmental conditions than other sustainable approaches.”
So, how is this all possible? Well, more than three decades ago a “sediment organism” was discovered in the Potomac river that could do things nobody had ever observed before in bacteria. The microbe belonged to the Geobacter genus, and over time scientists discovered that it could make bacterial nanowires that conduct electricity.
Electricity Out Of Thin Air
According to the team that published the study, their device uses this finding to create electricity from the atmosphere. One of the electrical engineers, Jun Yao, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, stated that they are “literally making electricity out of thin air.” They are calling it the “Air-gen” and it generates clean energy 24/7, thanks to the electrically conductive protein nanowires produced by Geobacter.
The idea that a device can create energy with nothing but the presence of air around it is quite exciting, it works by using a thin film of the protein nanowires mentioned measuring just micrometres thick that are positioned between two electrodes that are also exposed to the air. It’s because of this exposure that the nanowire film is able to absorb the water vapour that’s abundant within the atmosphere. This is what allows the device to generate a continuous electric current.
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 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.” (source)
An addition to the Air-gen, Yao’s laboratory has created several other applications using protein nanowires that are showing strong potential. Apparently this is just the beginning in a new era of protein-based electronic devices–if this technology is actually allowed to fully develop.
Human beings have so much potential, and we’ve had solutions to many of our problems for quite some time. Developments like this never seem to come to commercial scale as promised, and are not really ‘put out there’ nor marketed as they should be.
The Invention Secrecy Act of 1951
I’ve personally always wondered about the Invention Secrecy Act that was written up in 1951. Under this act, patent applications on new inventions can be subject to secrecy orders. These orders can restrict their publication if government agencies believe that their disclosure would be harmful to national security. I believe, as expressed by Julian Assange and many others, that national security has now become an umbrella term not to really protect national security, but corporate security and profits. After all, many corporations have a stranglehold of influence on the government.
The fact that Steven Aftergood from the Federation of American Scientists obtained a list from 1971 and reports the restriction of a new energy device is suspicious to me.
“The 1971 list indicates that patents for solar photovoltaic generators were subject to review and possible restriction if the photovoltaics were more than 20% efficient. Energy conversion systems were likewise subject to review and possible restriction if they offered conversion efficiencies in “excess of 70-80%.” (source)
Perhaps there are technologies that are kept under wraps that have the potential to change our world? Perhaps these technologies threatened the power of some people? Who knows.
Without diving down the conspiracy rabbit hole, the point is, even with what’s available in the public domain, we have and have had the means to change our world in a number of ways, yet it seems these technologies never seem to be implemented en masse. The solutions aren’t the problem, so ask yourself, what is?
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about what I’ve been into for the past 15 years, it’s that scarcity is a joke, and it doesn’t exist. It’s made to exist, and it’s necessary for economics, and anything that comes along (there have been many examples) that threatens the idea of scarcity is done away with, fast. A lack of scarcity, especially of key resources, completely destroys modern day economics and the foundation of what our ‘new world’ was built off of. We have more than enough ways to provide abundance to all. But a world of abundance has to be a world that is not driven or motivated by power. The solutions to all of our problems exist, in ways that continue to be hidden from us.