Evaporating Water as Renewable Energy

Evaporating Water

Evaporation, the process through which a liquid transforms to a gaseous phase, is source of energy transfer frequently seen in nature. However, it is not a process that has been closely followed for technological purposes. A group of researchers at Columbia University are examining how the principals of evaporation can be applied to basic engineering. While the process of evaporation as it is applied to water, the examined application, is generally a nanoscale operation, the researchers have been seeking to develop a macroscale version to use this energy transfer as a source of renewable energy.

If you haven’t been following us, developing technologies is a subject that is near and dear to ATS considering that we test for and remove outdated storage tanks and even developed our own tank testing equipment. Scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are constantly creating new technologies that make our daily lives easier, streamline difficult processes, improve the environment, and generally bring us closer as a global community. Every Thursday, ATS brings you a new “tech” that we think is worth learning about!

The first stage of development was to find a way to capture the energy created in the evaporation process. The team has found the combination of bacterial spores with changes in humidity results in a force of energy that can be applied. The dry air shrinks the spores while the moist air expands them releasing energy. They contained the spores in a series of pieces of tape, when the spores were exposed to changes in the climate they were able to power the movement of the tape. The resulting system is referred to as a Moisture Mill.

While the team is continuing to develop the technology for more diverse use, their current findings include utilizing the bacterial evaporation process to power a light and a miniature car. The technology certainly has a way to go but imagine a future where your home’s electricity or your vehicle could be powered by the evaporation of water!