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New Engine is Powered by Evaporation: Renewable Energy Sparks Toy Car (VIDEO)

First Posted: Jun 17, 2015 06:36 AM EDT

Scientists have created a toy car that is powered by the power of water vapor. The new car, which taps into the power of renewable energy, may pave the way for larger devices in the future.

"Evaporation is a fundamental force of nature," said Ozgur Sahin, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It's everywhere, and it's more powerful than other forces like wind and waves."

Previously, researchers noted that when bacterial sports shrink and swell with changing humidity, they can push and pull other objects forecefully. They pack more energy, pound for pound, than other materials used in engineering for moving objects. Building on these findings, the scientists decided to see if they could build actual devices that could be powered by this energy.

In order to build a floating, piston-driven engine, the researchers first glued spores to both sides of a thin-double sided plastic tape similar to what can be found in cassette tapes, creating a dashed line of spores. They then did the same on the opposite side of the tape, but offset the line so dashes on one side overlapped with gaps on the other.

When dry air shrinks the spores, the spore-covered dashes curve. This transforms the tape from straight to wavy, shortening the tape. If one or both ends of the tape are anchored, the tape tugs on whatever it's attached too. When the air is moist, the tape extends.

The researchers placed dozens of these tapes side by side, creating a stronger artificial muscle that they then placed inside a floating plastic case topped with shutters. Inside the case, evaporating water made the air humid. The humidity caused the muscle to elongate, opening the shutters and allowing the air to dry out. When the humidity escaped, the spores shrunk and the tapes contracted, pulling the shutters shut again and allowing the humidity to build once more.

The researchers used this small engine to power a small toy car and even a light. Known as the Moisture Mill, this engine could potentially be improved to create more power than a wind mill.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

Want to know more? Check out the video below, courtesy of YouTube.

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