News from the brainy folks over at MIT’s materials research department: a film that can generate energy from water vapor in the air!
Their new material is only 20 micrometers thick. For you visual learners, that’s .000002 meters! It is comprised of two sides, one rigid, and one gel. The gel is able to absorb minute quantities of water from environmental air and swell up. This swelling causes the film to curl, and when the film curls and rolls over, the water is released and the film flattens out. This curling and uncurling process is exciting because water is driving a process where chemical energy is converted to mechanical energy!
It has been demonstrated that this type of mechanical energy can be used to power robotic limbs or micro to nano scale devices!
The MIT news office described the technology as follows:
“The mechanical energy generated by the material can also be converted into electricity by coupling the polymer film with a piezoelectric material, which converts mechanical stress to an electric charge. This system can generate an average power of 5.6 nanowatts, which can be stored in capacitors to power ultra-low-power microelectronic devices, such as temperature and humidity sensors.”
“If used to generate electricity on a larger scale, the film could harvest energy from the environment — for example, while placed above a lake or river. Or, it could be attached to clothing, where the mere evaporation of sweat could fuel devices such as physiological monitoring sensors. You could be running or exercising and generating power.”
If harnessing sweat from your workout could power your MP3 player, what other practical applications for harnessing water can you think of? Considering that water is the most ubiquitous chemical on the planet earth, I’d venture to say there’s a few.
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