In their search of alternative energy resources, scientists have stopped at a phenomenon that, although known for ages, brought them surprises. They want to harvest electricity by profiting from the fact that air is loaded with electric charges, and work on a prototype for such a harvester.
Fernando Galembeck, a PhD from the University of Campinas in Sao Paolo, Brazil, leads the study. He and his colleagues busted the myth that water droplets in the atmosphere are electrically neutral and even after touching charged dust particles or droplets of other liquids, they remain neutral.
Through experimentation and research, Galembeck and his team found out that the water in the atmosphere picks up charges. They proved that by measuring the charge of silica and aluminum phosphate. When the air is humid, silica turns negative and the aluminum phosphate gets a more positive charge.
The scientists may even solve the mystery of lightnings and could serve to protect the buildings from them. The phenomenon they study is called “hygroelectricity”, and we might just have a collector or two in humid areas around homes to get some juice for our TV or lights, in the future. For the moment, it’s less than a prototype. “We certainly have a long way to go, but the benefits in the long range of harnessing hygroelectricity could be substantial,” says Galembeck.
Opening a way for hygroelectricity to grow and developing working prototypes would stimulate others in their research and the industry in developing new ways of producing electricity, so this is something we should watch more closely.
Galembeck’s work has been presented at this year’s ACS meeting.