Is it possible to generate energy from the air at night?

What can be learned from lightnings and applied to produce energy after sunset? A new study by Judy Lax, Prof. Colin Price and Prof. Hadas Saaroni

09 August 2019

At the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics conference, held last month in Montreal, Professor Colin Price, head of the Department of Environmental Studies, presented a new study to explore the use of high air humidity to generate energy, in a similar method to the way lightning works. The study is conducted by Porter School graduate Judy Lax, Prof. Colin Price and Prof. Hadas Saaroni 


Solar energy production is very efficient during light hours, but it ceases at sunset and the energy needs to be stored in batteries to be used after dark. Prof. Colin Price and Judy Lax are exploring the possibility of generating electricity using the humidity in the air. In the evening, after sunset, air humidity increases and in coastal areas such as Israel's coastal plain, it can reach over 60%. The researchers have developed a capacitor-like apparatus that is using the high humidity in the air to accumulate electric charge, which could be harnessed to drive a current through an external circuit.


The creation of lightning in the clouds depends on the humidity of the air and requires an interaction of water in all states - ice, water drops and vapour. The facility developed by the researchers is also using a solid material, zinc, the water vapour in the air and water droplets that form when the moisture condenses.


Thanks to the similarity in humidity conditions, this research can also help to shed light on the formation of lightnings in the atmosphere, which is not fully clear to science yet.


The Economist published an article about the study. You can also read the article at this link.

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