Imagine if you could make electricity out of thin air… That would solve one of Lebanon’s worst issues. Does it sound too good to be true ? Well, think again! Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Amherst have developed a device called the “Air-gen” that can create electricity 24/7, out of air, and without the overly noisy wind turbines…
“Air-gen” is the invention of electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley, and was created out of a unique collaboration between engineering and biology. Originally, it started about 30 years ago, when Lovley discovered a microbe called “Geobacter” in the mud of Potomac river, that can actually produce protein nanowires that conduct electricity. Years later, it was one of Yao’s PhD students who discovered, almost by accident, that the key was moisture. The exposure to atmospheric humidity turned out to be what is essential to produce a voltage.
The “Air-gen” consists of a microscopic film of the protein nanowires positioned between two electrodes, but also exposed to the air. Because of that exposure to air, the nanowire film is able to absorb humidity that exists in the atmosphere, enabling the device to generate a continuous electrical current conducted between the two electrodes. Currently, 17 of these devices linked together can generate enough electricity to power a cell phone. Researchers hope to develop commercial applications of their device, as it has major advantages over other sources of renewable energy like wind or solar, as in can be used anywhere, indoors or outdoors.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to make large-scale systems. These would include the power-generating plant to produce off-the-grid electricity. All that needs to happen is to find a way to mass-produce the wires. Once this is accomplished, that will make a major contribution to sustainable energy production. Which means never-ending electricity. Knowing this, I can’t help but wonder if the various private mafias making money out of selling electricity to the people in Lebanon would actually let that happen here…