Australian Scientists Discover How To Make Electricity ‘Out Of Thin Air’

Scientists have identified an enzyme that transforms air into electricity, which could lead to the discovery of a near-limitless source of renewable energy.

A Monash University team in Melbourne, Australia, discovered that a hydrogen-consuming enzyme from a common soil bacterium could generate an electrical current utilizing the atmosphere as an energy source.

“We’ve known for some time that bacteria can use the trace hydrogen in the air as a source of energy to help them grow and survive, including in Antarctic soils, volcanic craters, and deep in the ocean,” said Professor Chris Greening from Monash University’s Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

“But we didn’t know how they did this, until now.”

The discovery was detailed in a paper, titled ‘Structural basis for bacterial energy extraction from atmospheric hydrogen’, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

The enzyme, called Huc, proved to be “astonishingly stable” and remarkably efficient at creating “energy from thin air”, according to the researchers.

“Huc is extraordinarily efficient,” said Dr Rhys Grinter from Monash University.

“Unlike all other known enzymes and chemical catalysts, it even consumes hydrogen below atmospheric levels – as little as 0.00005 per cent of the air we breathe.”

Studies demonstrated that pure Huc may be stored for lengthy periods of time at freezing temperatures or up to 80 degrees Celsius without losing its ability to generate electricity.

Early applications of the “natural battery” enzyme Huc include small air-powered devices that can be used instead of solar-powered electronics.

The most immediate goal is to increase Huc production such that it can be used efficiently at a meaningful scale.

Dr Grinter said: “Once we produce Huc in sufficient quantities, the sky is quite literally the limit for using it to produce clean energy.”

Leave a Reply