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I've just read this article on a new - albeit very small scale ATM - way of generating electricity directly from water vapour:

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2023/jul/02/it-was-an-accident-the-scientists-who-have-turned-humid-air-into-renewable-power

There's also a link to the paper in the article.

To think of the evaporated water vapour in the atomsphere as a giant energy store driven by the sun smoothing out daily and yearly cycles is very compelling.

Somehow they've mananged to generate an electric field by differentially binding water vapour within the material and then have a current run along that field - again fed by water vapour as fuel. What I don't understand, however, is the conservation of energy side, here. We have water vapour going in and electricity and what going out? Liquid water?

Has anyone seen articles on that paper or the paper itself too and can elighten me?

Thanks, Damian

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A distinct mechanism was revealed, in which a spontaneous water adsorption was found to build up across the film thickness... and induce differentiated charge interaction for current.

It appears that the researchers don't really understand what is happening, though they posit possibilities. They state that there is a steady-state effect, so it's not just a dry material pulling in water. It seems possible to me that there is some type of condensation but the scale is so small as to not be measurable. The researchers state that they believe that the energy source is electrostatic movement of the water molecules, but it seems to me that they are providing a reason why it's not free energy. What the total-system effect is of drawing out electrostatic energy is beyond my understanding of molecular physics.

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