Air-gen: Humidity Power Generation Technology Utilizing Protein Nanowire Films as the Energy Conversion Layer


This article explores the concept, working principles, and potential applications of Air-gen, showcasing its promising prospects in the field of renewable energy.

Air-gen is an innovative and sustainable humidity power generation technology that harnesses the untapped energy present in the air. This cutting-edge system utilizes protein nanowire films as the energy conversion layer to harvest electrical energy from the humidity in the environment. This article explores the concept, working principles, and potential applications of Air-gen, showcasing its promising prospects in the field of renewable energy.


  • The increasing demand for clean and renewable energy sources has fueled research and development efforts in the field of alternative energy generation. Air-gen presents a unique approach to address this challenge by employing protein nanowire films as the key element for energy conversion. This technology holds great potential for revolutionizing the energy landscape, providing a sustainable solution for power generation.
  • Protein Nanowire Films: Protein nanowires, derived from the microbe Geobacter sulfurreducens, exhibit remarkable electrical conductivity and can serve as excellent candidates for energy conversion applications. These protein nanowires possess a unique combination of properties, including high conductivity, biocompatibility, and sustainability, making them ideal for harvesting electrical energy from the environment.
  • Working Principles of Air-gen: Air-gen operates on the principle of the “Air-Gen reaction,” where the humidity present in the atmosphere serves as a source of energy. The key component of the Air-gen system is a thin film made from protein nanowires, which acts as an energy conversion layer. When exposed to atmospheric moisture, the protein nanowires absorb water vapor and generate a continuous flow of electricity. This remarkable process is driven by the transfer of electrons from the humidity to the nanowires.
  • Material Properties and Fabrication: The protein nanowires used in Air-gen are composed of amino acids and exhibit excellent conductivity properties. They possess a unique helical structure, allowing efficient electron transfer within the film. Fabrication of the protein nanowire films involves a combination of genetic engineering techniques, material processing, and film deposition methods, resulting in robust and scalable energy conversion layers.
  • Efficiency and Performance: Air-gen demonstrates promising efficiency and performance characteristics, offering a renewable energy source with significant potential. Experimental studies have shown that a single sheet of protein nanowire film, approximately 7.5 microns thick, can generate a voltage of up to several hundred millivolts. The power output can be enhanced by stacking multiple layers of the film or employing larger surface areas for humidity absorption.
  • Applications of Air-gen: Air-gen has a wide range of potential applications in various sectors. Some of the notable applications include: a. Self-powered electronic devices: Air-gen could power small electronic devices, such as sensors, wearable electronics, and IoT devices, without the need for external power sources. b. Environmental monitoring systems: The self-sustaining nature of Air-gen makes it suitable for deployment in remote locations for monitoring environmental parameters. c. Indoor air quality control: Air-gen can be integrated into ventilation systems to generate electricity while purifying indoor air, enhancing energy efficiency in buildings. d. Low-power energy harvesting: Air-gen can provide a continuous and sustainable power supply for low-power applications, such as wireless sensors and low-energy lighting systems.
  • Challenges and Future Perspectives: While Air-gen shows great promise, there are several challenges that need to be addressed for its widespread adoption. These challenges include optimizing the film’s performance, scalability of the fabrication process, and developing cost-effective manufacturing techniques. However, with ongoing research and advancements, these obstacles can be overcome, paving the way for Air-gen to become a significant contributor to the renewable energy sector.

To realize “Air-gen” and enable continuous power generation using moisture, materials need to possess specific characteristics that facilitate the establishment of a humidity gradient difference. The previous research conducted by the research group has shed light on the requirements for such materials. The following are the common characteristics that materials should possess to achieve successful implementation of “Air-gen”:

  • Nanochannels: The material should have nanochannels that are comparable to or narrower than the mean free path of gaseous water molecules, which is approximately 100 nanometers. When the nanochannel size is smaller than this threshold, the gas-solid interaction becomes dominant over the gas-gas interaction. This deviation from free gas behavior establishes a thermodynamic equilibrium that differs from that of the open environment. Consequently, the density of gaseous water molecules within the nanochannels is lower than in the surrounding atmosphere.
  • Surface Interactions: The material should exhibit favorable interactions with water molecules. Abundant functional groups or surface characteristics should facilitate the adsorption of water molecules onto the material’s surface. These interactions enable the establishment of an adsorption gradient within the material.
  • Uniform Humidity Environment: The material should operate effectively in a uniform humidity environment, ensuring consistent exposure to moisture. This uniformity allows for the spontaneous creation of a humidity gradient difference within the material, leading to continuous power generation.

By satisfying these requirements, materials can enable the spontaneous establishment and persistence of a humidity gradient difference necessary for the efficient functioning of “Air-gen.” The protein nanowire film used in previous research exemplifies these characteristics, with its high density of nanopore channels and abundant functional groups facilitating continuous power generation using moisture.

It is crucial to note that ongoing research may identify additional material characteristics or modifications to further optimize the efficiency and performance of “Air-gen.” As scientists continue to explore and refine this technology, the understanding of material requirements may evolve, leading to advancements in humidity power generation.

University of Massachusetts "AM": Exploring the Universality of Using Nanoporous Films to Achieve Continuous Power Generation from Air Moisture

Figure 1: “Air-gen” device structure

The realization of the “Air-gen” effect and the performance comparison of different materials have been explored by the author using various materials such as cellulose nanofibers (CNF), silk fibroin (SF), microorganism Geobacter sulfurreducens, graphene oxides (GOx), and poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) (PEDOT) nanowires. The experiments involved the preparation of vertically structured “Air-gen” devices by drop-coating these materials to form high-density nanoporous films with pore sizes smaller than or close to the mean free path of gaseous water.

The vertical structure of the device, with gold electrodes arranged above and below the film, was found to generate stable voltage output in ambient air conditions. The moisture content of the films with varying thicknesses of the same material was measured using a quartz crystal microbalance, confirming the presence of a humidity gradient difference within the film.

The author conducted a comparative analysis of the pore size, saturation thickness (ds), electric field strength (E), and adsorption gradient difference per unit thickness (▽H2O%) among the different materials. The results indicated that the establishment of a moisture gradient in the film is influenced by the pore size, with the saturation thickness being proportional to the pore size. The adsorption gradient difference per unit thickness, on the other hand, showed an inverse relationship with the pore size.

The establishment of the electric field (E) within the film was found to be related not only to the moisture gradient difference but also to the density of functional groups on the material’s surface. The ratio of electric field strength (E) to the adsorption gradient difference per unit thickness (▽H2O%) was used to calculate the energy conversion efficiency of the materials. The findings demonstrated that biomaterials with abundant surface functional groups, such as protein nanowires, silk fibroin, and cellulose nanofibers, generally exhibited higher energy conversion efficiency.

These results highlight the importance of material selection in “Air-gen” technology. Biomaterials with rich surface functional groups show superior energy conversion efficiency, making them attractive candidates for further exploration and development in humidity power generation applications.

It is worth noting that ongoing research may uncover additional materials and their performance characteristics, expanding the understanding of suitable materials for “Air-gen” and potentially leading to further improvements in energy conversion efficiency.

University of Massachusetts "AM": Exploring the Universality of Using Nanoporous Films to Achieve Continuous Power Generation from Air Moisture

Figure 2: Different materials to achieve “Air-gen”, a) cellulose nanofibers (CNF), b) silk fibroin (SF), c) microorganism G.suffurendences, d) GOx, e) PEDOT nanowires.

University of Massachusetts "AM": Exploring the Universality of Using Nanoporous Films to Achieve Continuous Power Generation from Air Moisture

Figure 3: Comparison of parameters of different material “Air-gen” devices

Conclusion: Air-gen represents a breakthrough in humidity power generation technology, harnessing the abundant energy present in the atmosphere using protein nanowire films as the energy conversion layer. By leveraging the unique properties of protein nanowires, Air-gen offers a sustainable and scalable solution for renewable energy generation.

The utilization of protein nanowires in Air-gen brings several advantages. Firstly, these nanowires are biocompatible, making them safe for environmental applications. They can be produced from renewable sources and are highly sustainable, aligning with the principles of green energy. Additionally, the high electrical conductivity of protein nanowires ensures efficient energy conversion, maximizing the power output of the system.

To further enhance the performance and applicability of Air-gen, ongoing research focuses on improving the efficiency of the protein nanowire film and optimizing the fabrication process. Scientists are exploring different techniques to increase the humidity absorption capacity of the film, thereby boosting its power generation capabilities. This includes modifying the film’s surface properties or incorporating additional materials to enhance water vapor adsorption.

Scalability is another critical aspect for the commercial viability of Air-gen. Efforts are being made to streamline the production process and develop cost-effective manufacturing techniques. Scaling up the fabrication of protein nanowire films will enable large-scale deployment of Air-gen systems, ensuring widespread access to clean and renewable energy.

The future prospects for Air-gen are highly promising. As research and development continue, there is potential for significant advancements in power output, efficiency, and durability. The integration of Air-gen technology into various sectors, including electronics, environmental monitoring, and energy harvesting, holds the potential to revolutionize the way we generate and utilize energy.

Furthermore, Air-gen can contribute to addressing global energy challenges and reducing carbon emissions. By harnessing the abundant humidity in the air, this technology offers a renewable energy source that is readily available and environmentally friendly. Its self-sustaining nature and low maintenance requirements make it an attractive option for both developed and developing regions, where reliable and clean power sources are in high demand.

In conclusion, Air-gen represents a groundbreaking innovation in humidity power generation. With protein nanowire films as the energy conversion layer, this technology offers a sustainable and scalable solution for renewable energy production. As research progresses and technological advancements are made, Air-gen has the potential to transform the energy landscape, providing a cleaner and greener future for generations to come.

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