Questions for ‘New device can harvest clean energy from humid air anywhere’

Heavy storm clouds loom over an urban landscape full of tall buildings

Devices that draw power from humidity could supply power when solar energy is not available.

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To accompany New device can harvest clean energy from humid air anywhere


Before Reading:

  1. List three power sources that we use to generate electricity. Which one supplies most of the electricity that you use?
  2. Describe a recent time during which you had to get by without electricity. For example, a storm may have taken out the electricity. Or perhaps you went camping and didn’t have access to electrical power. Using that experience as a reference, consider ways that your life would differ if you lived somewhere that didn’t have reliable access to electricity. Describe three of those differences.
  3. What is the relationship between electricity and electrons? Can you have electrons without having electricity? Explain why or why not.

During Reading:

  1. What year did Benjamin Franklin carry out his famous kite experiment? Who was the second renowned inventor mentioned in this story who attempted to generate electricity from clouds?
  2. What changes in electrical charge occur in clouds during a thunderstorm? What vivid phenomenon can this change trigger?
  3. What unusual ability did the bacteria in Jun Yao’s 2020 studies demonstrate?
  4. Yao and his team went on to test many materials. The materials capable of turning humidity into electricity shared what physical characteristics?
  5. What type of molecule is responsible for developing a charge imbalance on this new device? 
  6. What is the name of the project on which Svitlana Lyubchik works? 
  7. From what material are the panel-like cells of Lyubchik’s device composed?

After Reading:

  1. One downside of this new technology in its current form is that it generates less electricity compared to more common sources, such nuclear reactors or fossil-fueled power plants. However, the technology has some unique advantages too. Regarding our climate, what is one advantage this technology might have over electricity from burning fossil fuels? What is an accessibility-related advantage? (Hint: Consider how many people have access to different sources of electricity and whether one source is more accessible than another.)
  2. Yao and his team initially took inspiration from bacteria in developing their new device. To what extent do you think nature inspires technological innovations today? In other words, is it more common or uncommon for scientists to look to nature for ideas about how we might solve problems or make technological advances? Explain your answer.
  3. Beyond energy technology, what is another field where nature might inspire new solutions to old problems or limitations? (Hint: Feel free to be creative! This field need not be a science field. Consider fields such as art, architecture, computer science, medicine or beyond.) You need not explain in detail how nature would solve this problem. But do explain how issues confronted in the natural world and by humans are similar.