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Advanced Humidity to Electricity Converter

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Electricity out of thin air – an exciting new source of green energy

An EU-funded initiative is capturing electricity from air by developing an innovative, affordable and applicable renewable energy solution: energy-efficient humidity-to-electricity convertors.

Energy

The HUNTER project is creating a revolutionary power device that converts atmospheric humidity into electrical charge, a form of static electricity known as hygroelectricity. “This will increase the range of known renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind and wave power, by applying a new atmospheric humidity source,” says project coordinator Andriy Lyubchyk. The multidisciplinary consortium assessed both technological issues (like nanoelectronic device fabrication) and fundamental issues (such as charge transport mechanisms). Researchers drew on recent advances in nanotechnology and materials science to capture electricity from the air using innovative ‘humidity-to-electricity’ devices. “The device will harvest electricity and supply a current in a similar way to how solar cells capture sunlight and generate electrical power," explains Lyubchyk. Project partners have considerable research experience in nanostructured materials fabrication and optical, electrical and structural characterisation of low-dimensional systems. The team created and tested a device employing nanomaterials-based humidity-to-electricity conversion technology which conforms to Technology Readiness Levels 3-4 .

Creation of new technologies

According to Lyubchyk, significant technological advances included the development of energy-efficient humidity-to-electricity convertors. “It also involved the creation of the unique nanotechnologies, methods and instruments for creation and analysis of nanoelectronics devices in well controlled humidity environments,” he observes. New technologies were also created during project implementation. “For example, the ‘EUREKA1’ humidification dosing unit was developed, tested and optimised for use in electrical, humidity adsorption or morphological characterisation and is precise enough to measure a hundredth of a relative humidity value,” Lyubchyk notes. The successful realisation of the project is assured thanks to a coordinated network of knowledge sharing in materials science, physics and chemistry. This is reinforced by a state-of-the-art understanding of nanoelectronics and by applying bottom-up nanoengineering approaches through international and intersectoral collaboration of experts from Belarus, Finland, France, Portugal, Ukraine and the United States.

Multiple applications

The project’s results have led to the development of a new generation of functional materials, and consequently, to the creation of advanced nanoelectronics devices. “We believe that principles based on the HUNTER conversion device will widen scientific understanding in the fields of nanomaterials and nanoelectronics,” comments Lyubchyk. In addition, the initiative provides a fresh perspective on existing nanotechnological solutions in renewable energy: the HUNTER system is incorporated into existing solar cell panels to work during the night, and also into building materials. Further, it has potential applications in medicine for powering photoactive materials in tumour treatment, in chemical engineering for electric-field-controlled electrokinetic precious-metal-free catalysts, and in the automotive industry for low-temperature thin-film oxygen sensors. However, the most promising field of application seems to be in switching devices that typically draw power from conventional energy sources to the HUNTER technology. “The development of this technology has already united and continues to unite scientific groups from various fields of activity, as well as private companies, to achieve a great goal – improving people's lives,” Lyubchyk concludes.

Keywords

HUNTER, renewable energy, atmospheric humidity, hygroelectricity, nanomaterials, nanoelectronics, humidity-to-electricity convertor, conversion device

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