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UC Professor’s Device Produces Energy from Evaporating Water


867Scientists from Columbia University have built a device that generates electricity from evaporating water.

Over the years people have found many different ways to generate renewable energy, some more conventional than others. Most of these means (with exception of solar) involve harnessing of the energy generated through some sort of motion- either wind, water, or even body movement. But while all these are large scale, visibly powerful energy sources, there are others, much smaller and much cheaper, that are still to be explored.

Ozgut Sahin, a professor at Columbia University, designed a LEGO device that generates electricity from evaporating water. Together with his team, Sahin is exploring the possibilities of using soil bacteria, integrated into an advanced technology, for generation of power from what is seems like to the naked eye- thin air.

The secret behind the device is a rubber sheet covered with spores (soil bacteria). These spores move under the influence of moisture in the air, making the sheet change its shape. This movement can them be converted to energy.  Placed near water bodies, the device can generate electricity even when it seems like nothing is happening.

The team developed a number of versions of the device for different uses. One is the “evaporation engine”, which is designed to sit on the surface of stagnant water bodies, and allows water to enter and leave it, creating a perfect environment for the spores to keep contracting. Another version is the “moisture mill”, where tapes with spores are placed around a wheel. The device moves under the influence of the spores flexing.

If successful, this technology can open up numerous possibilities, and give options to all these areas in the world, where water is stagnant, the wind is mild, the sun is hidden, or the money is limited.  Furthermore, if the sheets with spores are made large enough, they can be used to cover reservoirs in drought-prone areas. There, they can act as both energy generators, and safeguards of the water, preventing it from evaporating.

Sahin believes that the amount of energy that this system can generate can easily equal that of solar power. With the appropriate funding, he believes his team can make the technology viable within the next 10-15 years.

Image (c) Columbia University

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