Science 3 min read

Air Humidity as a Source of Renewable Energy

Grape Fruits / Shutterstock.com

Grape Fruits / Shutterstock.com

According to a recent study from scientists at Tel Aviv University, air humidity could be a potential viable source of renewable energy.

The shift to renewable energy sources is essential to fight climate change.

According to reports, renewables could supply 80 percent of the world’s electricity by 2050. It will lead to a massive cut in carbon emissions, and also mitigate climate change altogether.

As a result, renewable sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and hydroelectric dams have preoccupied scientists and policymakers. Now, the researchers at Tel Aviv University may have discovered a potential renewable source — water vapor.

In a statement about the project, co-author of the study, Prof. Colin Price said:

“Electricity in thunderstorms is generated only by water in its different phases — water vapor, water droplets, and ice. Twenty minutes of cloud development is how we get from water droplets to huge electric discharges — lightning — some half a mile in length.”

Other researchers in the study include Prof. Hadas Saaroni and doctoral student Judi Lax.

Generating Electricity from Water Vapor

In the 19th century, English physicist Michael Faraday discovered that friction between a metal surface and water droplets could create an electric charge. More recent research suggests that specific metals could spontaneously build up electrical charge upon exposure to humidity.

So, the researchers decided to take advantage of these naturally occurring phenomena. They worked to determine the voltage between two metals exposed to high relative humidity, while one is grounded.

The team recorded no voltage between the metals under dry conditions. However, as the relative humidity rose above 60 percent, voltage began to develop between the two metal surfaces.

The voltage disappeared when the researchers reduced the humidity levels below 60 percent. What’s more, the result remained consistent under natural conditions.

Air Humidity as a Source of Renewable Energy

So far, the Tel Aviv scientists have only been able to generate an extremely low voltage in their experiments. However, with further studies, it could scale up enough to charge batteries.

Prof. Price noted:

“If an AA battery is 1.5V, there may be a practical application in the future: to develop batteries that can be charged from water vapor in the air”.

According to the researchers, relative air humidity of above 60 percent is common in most tropical countries. This suggests that atmospheric water vapor could serve as a renewable energy source.

The results may be particularly important as a renewable source of energy in developing countries, where many communities still do not have access to electricity, but the humidity is constantly about 60%,” Prof. Price concludes.

The researchers published their findings in the journal Scientific Reports.

Read More: Water Harvester Extracts Record Amount of Drinking Water From Air

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Sumbo Bello

Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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