A new study reveals that water evaporation could be a source of renewable energy. The researchers discovered that reservoirs and lakes in the United States could generate 325 gigawatts of power, which is equivalent to about 70 percent of the nation's electrical energy.
The findings of the study were published in the Nature Communications on Sept. 26. The study was led by researchers from the Columbia University, according to Science Daily.
Ozgur Sahin, the senior author of the study and the biophysicist at Columbia, said that technology could utilize energy from wind, water and the sun, but evaporation could be as powerful as them. He further said that they can now put a number on its potential.
The study suggests that evaporation-based energy could have a huge influence. This source of energy is less dependent on the weather. The researchers noted that they could not use water from every lake as this could affect the freshwater resources. On the other hand, the good thing about evaporation is that it could be generated only when it is needed.
Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, the lead author of the study and a graduate student at Columbia University, said that evaporation comes with a natural battery. He explained that evaporation can make it your main source of power and draw on the solar wind when they are available.Evaporation is a natural process of cycling water, in which the water changes from a liquid to a gas or vapor. It is the main route that water transfers from the liquid state back into the water cycle and becomes the atmospheric water vapor.
Studies reveal that the lakes, oceans, rivers, and seas could provide about 90 percent of the moisture in the atmosphere through the process of evaporation. Heat or energy is also essential for evaporation to transpire.
So, how could you generate energy from evaporation? In 2015, the researchers developed an "evaporation engine" that rested on the surface of the water and controlled an organism known as Bacillus subtilis spores, which they attached to the thin strips of tape. The spores then absorbed the water and get bigger. The water evaporated and the spores shrunk when it was hot. Sahin said that if you think of the spores as a muscle that shrinks and elongates, then you can attach it to a generator that generates electricity from motion. It results in producing energy through that process, as noted by The Verge.
The researchers thought that if you could use the principles of evaporation engine on lakes and reservoirs in the U.S., then you could generate about 315 gigawatts of electricity-generating capacity. Currently, the scientists are planning to use materials that could be mass-produced and will test their evaporation engine on a large body of water.
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