The scientists created a unique way to obtain clean energy from water evaporation. They used a method where the morphing crystals convert the energy of evaporation into motion. The development has significant potential to power future machines and various mechanical devices. The process of evaporation of water that can be observed on a hot day under natural conditions, is considered as an extremely powerful. When used in a closed mode, it can provide a long-term and sustainable energy source.
An international team of scientists led by researchers from the Center for Advanced Study was able to develop such a device using the method of shape-shifting crystals. The process involved trapeptides, water-responsive simple versions of biological building blocks.
They consist of three-dimensional structures of nanosized pores. The water in them is tightly bound, and the pores are interspersed with a molecular network of liquid and flexible zones. When humidity drops to a critical value, a strong compression of the interconnected network occurs.
It changes the orderly pattern of the crystals for a time, until the moisture is restored. After that the crystals return to their previous shape. The algorithm can be repeated over and over again and provides an efficient method of harvesting the energy of evaporation to complete mechanical tasks.
One of the researchers, Roxana Piotrovska, noted that she and her colleagues have succeeded in creating a new type of wire that is able to work effectively by evaporating water. By observing the process, the researchers were able to identify its key mechanisms for converting evaporation into mechanical energy at the molecular level.
It is important to note that the crystals developed by the scientists are made from the same building blocks from which the proteins are formed. But they are greatly simplified that makes them stable for use in the new mechanism of energy production.