Bioengineers at Colombia University have created an evaporation engine which costs just $5 to build and requires nothing more than bacterial spores and evaporating water to run.
Their research, which was published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, has resulted in initial prototypes exhibiting the ability to harness the power of shrinking and swelling bacterial spores responding to changes in humidity.
The researchers designed a pair of evaporation-driven engines capable of powering common tasks from locomotion to the generation of electricity.
In order to pull off this impressive feat, the engines employ specially designed biologically-based artificial muscles which respond to moisture fluctuations in order to generate rotary and piston-like linear motion.
As these hi-tech evaporation engines run autonomously when placed at air-water interfaces, the researchers were able to demonstrate in their study their ability to generate electricity while resting on water and harvesting its evaporation.
Using this new biotechnology, the Colombia University researchers were able to successfully power a miniature car weighing 0.1 kilograms. In the demonstration, the mini-car moved forward as the water in the car evaporated.
The researchers note in the study’s abstract that evaporation-powered engines “may find applications in powering robotic systems, sensors, devices and machinery that function in the natural environment.”
Evaporation-driven engines may find applications in powering robotic systems, sensors, devices and machinery that function in the natural environment.
NBC News speculates in a report that this new spore muscle technology could lead to “autonomous machines that operate super-efficiently when in proximity to water.”
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