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Could evaporation become our next power source?

Columbia University associate professor of biological sciences and physics Ozgur Sahin, Ph.D., said the world could have a new and totally renewable power source quite literally at it fingertips.   

"Evaporation is a fundamental force of nature," Sahin said. "It's everywhere, and it's more powerful than other forces like wind and waves." 

Sahin and his colleagues built test devices that could be powered by evaporation energy, including a piston-driven engine, where he and his researchers glued spores to both sides of a thin, double-sided plastic tape like that in cassette tapes, creating a dashed line of spores. They did the same on the opposite side of the tape.   

When the dry air shrunk the spores, the spore-covered dashes began to curve. This transformed the tape from straight to wavy, shortening the tape. Conversely, when the air was moist, the tape was extended, releasing the force. 

The humidity caused the muscle to elongate, opening the shutters and allowing the air to dry out. When the humidity escaped, the spores shrunk and the tapes contracted, pulling the shutters closed and allowing humidity to build again enabling a self-sustaining cycle of motion to be born.   

"We turned evaporation from a pool of water into light," Sahin said. 

In the future, Sahin said, it may be possible to design engines that use the mechanical energy stored in spores to propel a full-sized vehicle, which would require neither fuel to burn nor an electrical battery.   

Source: IDTEchEX and Columbia University

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