Water evaporation power a promising source of renewable energy

This Water evaporation power method of harvesting energy is in very early stages

Harvesting energy from evaporation could go a long way toward solving our power problems — at least in theory. This method of harvesting energy is in very early stages. Unlike solar and wind power, evaporation technology is not commercialized yet and won’t be for a while.

So is it worth pursuing further? Scientists wrote a model to figure this out, and predicted that the energy potentially available from evaporation is comparable to that of wind and solar power. The research was published today in the journal Nature Communications.

How do you harvest energy from evaporation? Study author and Columbia University biophysicist Ozgur Sahin first developed the “evaporation engine” in a 2015 paper.  The tiny “evaporation engine” sits on the surface of water. As water from the surface enters the device, it changes the shape of the spores, which create electricity. The spores are also connected to shutters that control how much water evaporates.

This means that you can control how much energy is generated, and even store and release it over time to create continuous power. Other forms of renewable energy are more dependent on the amount of sun or wind.

The same team also created a mill with spores on it, half in a humid environment and half in a dry environment. When attached to a tiny wheels, the device powered the wheels using evaporation. There are a lot of steps before this method can be put to use.

The team is working to develop materials that can be manufactured on a large scale, and want to test their engine on a larger body of water, like a pool. But they could one day have a lot of impact — after all, the Earth is 70 percent water.

About Joslyne Thaggard

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