While evaporation as a renewable energy source is not yet receiving as much attention as solar or wind power, its potential benefits are there. They have just been demonstrated by a team at Columbia University who designed the technology necessary to take advantage of evaporation to obtain clean energy, in addition to measuring its possible use. The results are surprising: US lakes and swamps could generate 325 gigawatts, which represents nearly 70% of the country’s current production.
But this advantage does not come alone. The system, as shown Columbia university, as well this would lead to a very significant water saving; up to a fifth of what the American population consumes. This is possible because the researchers who led this project estimate that about half of the water that is naturally lost from lakes and swamps through natural evaporation would be saved by applying an energy harvesting process.
Why do it? In addition to the expected production volume, because this alternative to renewable energies could be exploited “On request, day or night”, which would represent a significant advantage over the intermittency problems of other sources, such as solar or wind power.
Another strong point of evaporation to start its takeoff in this area is that, being able to generate energy only when needed, would make storage unnecessary and, with it, the provision of storage batteries. “Evaporation is provided with a natural battery”, assures the Ahmed-Hamdi Cavusoglu thread, in charge of the study “ Potential of natural evaporation as a source of renewable and reliable energy ”, published in Nature communications.
In order to provide their estimates, this research team greatly simplified their model and chose to limit their calculations to the United States, excluding certain areas. Likewise, it is assumed that the technology for collecting evaporative energy is fully developed.
And in fact, it is the researchers, who have already designed a team called the Evaporation Engine. Equipped with a shutter that opens and closes and provides humidity control, this technology includes bacterial spores that expand and contract. This contraction is then transferred to a generator which produces electricity.
How the system works is straightforward, according to the study’s lead author Ozgur Sahin, in statements collected by Nexus Media, “When the blinds are closed, the evaporation of the water surface increases the humidity level under the blinds and the spores are propagated (…) their movement then opens the blinds, which reduces the humidity level. The cycle ends when the spores contract and close the blinds “. And this process, which is repeated over and over again, ends up connecting to a generator that produces electricity.
For the time being, Researchers continue to work on this system to test the concept in lakes once they improve its effectiveness., swamps and even greenhouses. In them, this technology could be very useful due to its dual ability to generate energy and save water. As the work progresses, the prospects for a possible use of evaporation to produce clean energy without large-scale storage needs are immense.