Electricity Pulled from Humid Air! 50/100 Campaign Wraps and We Planted Another 10,000 Trees!!! Hiatus

by | Jul 11, 2023 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Electricity pulled from humid air! And did we mention the 50/100 Campaign Wrapped and we planted another 10,000 trees!!! Plus, Hiatus…



HEY EVERYBODY— We’re back and can you feel it? The air is electric. Speaking of which, did you know that a major source of lightning during thunderstorms is from the massive amount of energy stored in water molecules in the air? 

(Actually, that’s why old Benjamin Franklin flew a kite in a thunderstorm on that fateful June day in 1752—to catch electricity in a Leyden Jar—a bottle specifically designed to catch and store electricity for later use. Contrary to popular belief, Franklin’s kite wasn’t struck by lightning. Most experts agree that would have killed him. Instead, the hovering kite picked up the ambient electrical charge from the storm. And the rest is history.)

Until now. Last May, researchers at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst revealed they had managed to successfully generate a small but continuous electric current from humidity in the air. Now, a report by The Guardian is revealing the breakthrough came by surprise. “To be frank, it was an accident,” told the news outlet the study’s lead author, Prof Jun Yao. “We were actually interested in making a simple sensor for humidity in the air. But for whatever reason, the student who was working on that forgot to plug in the power.”

The device, which was made from an array of microscopic tubes, or nanowires, was producing an electrical signal regardless. The process is called hygroelectricity. And why does it matter to us? Well, as Peter Dobson, emeritus professor of engineering science at Oxford University, told The Guardian, “If you can engineer and scale it, and avoid the thing getting contaminated by atmospheric microbes, it should work.”

We’re still have a ways to go before these types of devices are powering our homes. Questions like, “How do these devices get manufactured?” How do we source raw materials, assess the environmental footprint, and scale up? If scaled to accommodate individual buildings in an entire town or city, how much would they affect the weather? Would the Earth’s water cycle keep up? Would the machines become less effective as the air surrounding air became drier? So many questions, but it’s a fabulous example of the possibilities of nature tech.

(And so solarpunk, too!)

DEEPER DIVE: Ben Franklin Institute, Leyden Jar, The Guardian, Hygroelectricity, Harvesting Electricity from Humid Air



Hey everybody, I am super excited to announce that The Climate’s 50/100 campaign is over! We did it! 215 listeners and friends of The Climate Daily podcast made a one-time donation of $50 or $100 to help us plant ultimately 10,040 trees! 

(yeah, got a little overzealous and went 40 trees over. That’s all right.) 

The final Climate Champions who helped bring our 50/100 campaign to a successful close are:

(John Robert “Jay” Howell, III

Robin Royner

Tony Djemidzic

Cecile Marie Garcia

Charlie “Chucky” Bravo

Sofia Lorin)

Burton Z. Maxwell

The customers of The Bridge Coffee House at American University

Wendy Ferry

Nando’s Restaurant

Caroline Granger

Francesca Pazolfinas

And two, two-time Climate Champions, Daniel Fredriksson and Vicky Bonasera

Thank you all for your support. And stay tuned to find out where and when it all goes down! Oh and I love what Francesca Pazolfinas said about us. She said, “From now on you’re “Maude Makes Forests” and “Jeffrey Plants Trees.” That’s really touching and very creative. Thank you! 

Take it away, Maude Makes Forests.

DEEPER DIVE: WMO Report50/100 Campaign, Trillion Tree Project



HEY EVERYBODY—We’re back! We had a great trip. It was part vacation AND part exploration. And what we discovered were some fabulous opportunities, including the chance to greatly expand our reforestation campaign efforts and/or collaborate with some other great organizations in the climate space, too. So in a bittersweet twist, we need to step away from The Climate Daily, which means going on hiatus. We’ll be posting updates periodically – check back with us at The Climate.org and the Climate Daily often!