A group of out-of-the-box thinkers from Columbia University recently published a study that claims they may have found a way to efficiently harness energy from the byproduct of evaporation. They’ve been able to put their work into meaningful numbers, estimating that if we implemented their design idea, we could provide power for 70% of the country.
The way their evaporation engine works is by way of gathering power from the expansion and contraction of bacterial spores that are present in humidity. The spores are put on plastic strips, which act like muscles by opening and closing while controlling humidity and collecting power. Columbia biophysicist, Ozgur Sahin, explains that the evaporation machine has the potential to be just as powerful as our current sources of naturally occurring power like wind, water, and solar power.
Within their estimate of providing the country with 70% of its power is the assumption that the technology to gather the energy from evaporation will be fully developed. They utilized weather data from within the United States, yet excluded prime areas such as the Great Lakes and coastlines to avoid error as much as possible.
Evaporation energy would work best in warm and dry environments, therefore states that are subject to drought conditions would be the most suitable locations for the energy harvesting. The team identified California, Arizona, and Nevada as the three most beneficial states when it comes to evaporation energy collecting utilization. The use of energy from evaporation would also be supplemental to other forms of renewable energy like wind, water, and solar power. Because the sun is not always out, and the wind is not always blowing, evaporation energy can work hand in hand to ensure the existence of some type of energy source around the clock.
Aside from the newly identified energy source, the evaporation machine will also save the country 25 trillion gallons of water per year, and reduce the amount of water we lose to the atmosphere by almost half. The evaporation machine is currently being improved further, and within good time will be tested by the team atop water reservations and lakes.
“Study Claims Evaporation Could Provide 70 per Cent of US Energy.” The Engineer, 28 Sept. 2017, www.theengineer.co.uk/evaporation-renewable-us-energy/.