Scientists at Columbia University recently figured out a way to power a car using evaporation, the process through which liquids turn into gas.
Well … it was just a miniature car in their laboratory, but still … this discovery could lead to a massive new resource for renewable energy.
Researchers were able to run the car, nicknamed Eva, using an evaporation-powered generator that harnesses the mechanical energy of Bacillus subtilis spores contracting and expanding when exposed to humidity.
“We built a little spore-powered 3.5-ounce toy car to showcase subtilis,” co-inventor Ozgur Sahin told Popular Science.“It isn’t the fastest—it takes a minute to cover about 4 inches—but it’s the only vehicle ever to run on evaporated water.”
The scientists hypothesize that if their methods and devices are recreated on a larger scale, evaporation from lakes and dams in the United States could ultimately generate 325 gigawatts of power — about 70 percent of the power currently produced in America, according to Renewable Energy Magazine.
They also noted that using harnessing energy from evaporation could help with water conservation. They estimated that around 50 percent of the water naturally lost through evaporation, which they estimated would equal one-fifth of the water Americans use, could be be put to use with their technology.
As Sierra magazine points out, “Unlike solar and wind, which generate power only when natural conditions are right, the evaporation power plant could be turned on whenever power was needed.”
Of course, applying this technology on a large scale is still a long ways off. The Columbia team hopes to eventually test its theories on a lake or reservoir, and further development would hinge on its impact on underlying ecosystems. Still, the idea of adding another renewable resource to our grid has us pretty darned excited.
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