NEW YORK, June 16 (UPI) -- Scientists at Columbia University have developed two devices that derive their power from evaporation -- a floating piston that powers a flashing light and a rotary engine that propels a mini car.
Researchers have been developing evaporation-powered technology for several years, and now they're already dreaming about how to scale up their inventions.
"Evaporation is a fundamental force of nature," lead researcher Ozgur Sahin, an associate professor of biological sciences and physics at Columbia, said in a press release. "It's everywhere, and it's more powerful than other forces like wind and waves."
The power that propels the two engines is derived from evaporation via unique bacterial spores, which expand and contract as humidity levels fluctuate.
Last year, researchers demonstrated the spores strength and potential. Now, they've strategically applied concentrations of spores to create a sort of artificial muscle that can be manipulated by changing humidity. The movement of the floating muscle-like engine was able to generate enough electricity to power a small light.
The technology was similarly applied to create a wheel-like turbine engine, using the mechanical energy stored in the spore-tipped turbine to power a car.
Researchers say future iterations of the technology could power much larger engines.
The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.