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Generating clean energy from humidity? Research team says it's possible

A team of engineers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst says they have come up with a way to generate energy from humidity.

MINNEAPOLIS — As we head into hot and humid days, imagine turning that humidity into clean energy.

The idea may sound like something out of a science fiction movie, but there’s actually science behind it.

Turning humidity into energy is the core idea behind a recently published study that is generating a lot of attention online.

A team of engineers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst says they have come up with a way to accomplish the feat.

The research team believes any type of material can be turned into a device that can harvest electricity from humidity in the air.

The material would need to be thin, and it would need to have nanopores that are about one thousand times thinner than human hair.

The research team is calling this the “Air-gen” effect, which can generate electricity from water droplets passing through a thin material.

Researchers say the concept is similar to how clouds can generate lightning.

The research team points out that clouds are essentially large groupings of water droplets.

Nina Axelson says the idea makes sense and shows a lot of promise.

She is the president of Grid Catalyst, a Minnesota accelerator that helps green energy startups grow and enter the marketplace.

“The base science makes sense. I think it’s viable,” Axelson says.

“For me, it’s exciting. I’m not quite at the point where I’m going to say this is going to be the game changer.”

However, there can be a big difference between a great idea and a game-changing innovation.

“They have only done things at this small scale. Some of the biggest challenges in emerging tech is how do you move something from idea to prototype, and then to scale, and then to deployment,” Axelson says.

Several green energy innovations have struggled to make their way through the process of idea to deployment, Axelson says.

However, every idea is valuable in the quest to produce green energy, because every idea has the potential to inspire another person who could create the next life-changing innovation.

“Even if this exact version of this tech isn’t it, I think you could still see something else in an iteration of this. There is so much sharing of ideas and concepts going on right now. It’s never been a more exciting time for discovery, invention, and innovation. The clean tech landscape is so cool right now.”

If you’d like to learn more about this research study, check out this article from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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