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Could spores unlock the next massive reservoir of renewable energy?

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Researchers from Colombia University have invented an ‘evaporation engine’ which utilises spores to capture energy from moisture.

It’s an unusual use for spores that’s for sure, so how does it work?
The researchers have also created a 'car' called Eva which uses the expansion and contraction of the spores to propel itself forward
(Image via Colombia University).

Bacterial spores are placed on thin plastic ribbons within the engine. As the spores expand and contract like a muscle (in response to the level of moisture in the air), they generate motion. This motion is then used to shift dozens of tiny weights located along the perimeter of the engine which leads to imbalance which leads to propulsion that generates energy.

They’ve even created the world’s-first evaporation powered car- Eva.


The team behind the project believe that evaporation could be utilised to unlock a vast reservoir of renewable energy. They have calculated that evaporation from lakes and reservoirs in the United States could generate 325 gigawatts and replace 70 percent of the country’s current power production.

As Ozgur Sahin, a biophysicist at Columbia University says:

“We have the technology to harness energy from wind, water and the sun, but evaporation is just as powerful.”

One benefit of evaporation power is that it can be generated only when needed. Solar and wind power, by contrast, require batteries to supply power when the sun isn’t shining and wind isn’t blowing. Batteries are both expensive and require toxic materials in their manufacture.

“Evaporation comes with a natural battery,”
says Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, a graduate student at Colombia. “You can make it your main source of power and draw on solar and wind when they’re available.”

Researchers at the university are now working to improve the efficiency of the evaporation engine and eventually hope to test the concept on a lake, reservoir or even a greenhouse (where the technology could be used to simultaneously make power and save water).

If you’re an engineer looking for your next exciting project to work on, register with Fircroft today and we’ll send you the latest vacancies with many of the world’s leading engineering companies.
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Could spores unlock the next massive reservoir of renewable energy? - Time to read 2 min
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