Pursue Tesla’s dream of generating electricity from air | Sciences

As the European Union is on track to achieve climate neutrality by mid-century, a mother and son team is helping to tackle a potential hurdle: the limited number of renewables that will enable the EU to forgo fossil fuels. Andriy Lyubchyk is one of the partners in the CATCHER project, which aims to diversify clean energy sources by perfecting a new process that successfully converts atmospheric moisture into electricity.

This technique involves collecting the tiny charges of static electricity that are present in water vapor molecules everywhere in the atmosphere. This process is known as Hydroelectric or electricity from moisture.

says Lyubchik, CEO .start Cascatachuva Lda, Portuguese, and chemical engineer at the Lusophone University of Human Sciences and Technologies in Lisbon, Portugal.

old dream

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla dreamed of producing energy from the air and came to conduct a series of experiments to capture electrical charges from the atmosphere and convert them into electric current.

Since the time of Tesla, the scientific community has deepened its understanding of how electricity is created and released into the atmosphere, and it was discovered that water vapor can carry electrical charges. Such knowledge could give new impetus to the European Union, which gets about 22% of its energy from renewable sources. At this time, it is emphasized that the target set for the end of this decade regarding the use of the mentioned sources, including hydroelectric power, will be increased to 45%. However, for Europe to be climate neutral before 2050, renewable energy sources must play a greater role, and in this regard, hydroelectric power will expand the options available to alternatives to oil, natural gas and coal, the European Union.

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Funded by the European Innovation Council’s Explorer Programme, CATCHER brings together eight partners from six European countries to explore this possibility. The general idea of ​​the project may be the same as that of Tesla, but the technology used by CATCHER is completely different. To capture energy from atmospheric moisture, the project uses cells similar to those in solar panels, which are made of zirconium oxide, a crystalline solid. Zirconium oxide is a ceramic material commonly used in dental implants, advanced glass materials, electronics, and the coating of nuclear fuel rods. According to Svetlana Lyubchik, CATCHER coordinator and Andriy’s mother, seven years ago, a research group began looking for evidence of hydropower by exploring the properties of zirconium oxide nanomaterials. Svetlana Lyubchik is also a chemical engineer at the University of Lusophon. With his son, he took various initiatives to try to exploit this potential.

At this time, the research had reached the point where it was possible to generate about 0.9 volts of electricity, through a plate of eight by five centimeters of his material, in a laboratory with approximately 50% humidity. This amount of power is comparable to the power output of half an AA battery.

The research succeeded in generating the power output from half an AA battery through an eight by five centimeter plate

The team, which is now looking to increase the efficiency of its hydroelectric equipment, hopes that, once complete, the cells will be able to obtain the same amount of electricity as photovoltaic cells of the same size. In addition, they believe it could be used in a similar way to solar panels: in large-scale photovoltaic parks or as a source of energy for individual use in buildings.

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The cells are created by producing fine, uniform nanoparticles made of zirconium oxide. These particles are then compressed into a sheet of material of similar structure, which includes a series of channels or capillaries.

According to Andrei Lyubchik, the nanostructure generates electric fields inside the capillaries that separate charge from water molecules absorbed from the atmosphere. The result is a series of physical, chemical, physical and electrical processes that capture electrical energy. There is one aspect in which this new technology has an advantage over solar and wind power. While panels and turbines must be installed at certain points with sunlight and wind, hydroelectric cells can be located anywhere, since there is little difference in humidity levels in the same area.

Of course, they are not necessarily a viable option in all settings, as they require minimal humidity levels to operate. “For example, if the outside temperature is below 15 degrees, everything will be frozen and there will be no water in the air,” says Andriy Lyubchyk.

Heating and cooling

Andriy Lyubchyk also coordinates the EU-funded SSHARE project with his mother, who is studying a possible real-world application of hydroelectric cells in the heating and cooling system. “By combining the two technologies, the system becomes self-sufficient,” says Andriy Lyubchyk. The heating and cooling system works through a sophisticated radiant panel that can be installed on the ceiling of the room.

Above the slab, perforated tubes lead and supply hot or cold water, depending on whether you want to cool or heat the room. The pad then radiates heat (or absorbs from) the room through atmospheric moisture, similar to the way heat is released from the skin through perspiration.

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The system is expected to be able to feed pumps that circulate the water with hydroelectricity generated by the steam entering and exiting the panel. According to the research team, this self-contained heating system confirms how hydropower can drive the transition to net-zero energy. “We can contribute to the EU policy on energy independence,” Svetlana Lyubchik assures.

The research described in this article was supported by European Union funds. The article was originally published in horizonEuropean Union journal of research and innovation.

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