189: Oops… power! Humidity Batteries


Matt and Sean talk about the accidental discovery of turning humidity into electricity, and your comments from the mailbag.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, Is This Accidental Discovery The Future Of Energy? https://youtu.be/ZyY1PLTlmT0?list=PLnTSM-ORSgi4dFnLD9622FK77atWtQVv7

YouTube version of the podcast: https://www.youtube.com/stilltbdpodcast

Get in touch: https://undecidedmf.com/podcast-feedback

Support the show: https://pod.fan/still-to-be-determined

Follow us on Twitter: @stilltbdfm @byseanferrell @mattferrell or @undecidedmf

Undecided with Matt Ferrell: https://www.youtube.com/undecidedmf

★ Support this podcast ★

Hey everybody, on today’s episode of Still to be Determined, we’re going to be talking about how it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. As usual, I’m Sean Ferrell. I’m a writer. I write some sci fi. I write some stuff for kids, including my most recently released The Sinister Secrets of Singe, which is available at bookstores everywhere.

With me, as always, is my brother, Matthew. He is that Matt from Undecided with Matt Ferrell, which takes a look at emerging tech and its impact on our lives. And Matt, how are you doing today? Doing

well. Won’t go into all the details. I’m a little exhausted right now because I had a long day yesterday. But also I think I mentioned it in the last episode, how my smart home had failed me, where like I had been setting it up and it kind of imploded and had to reset it up.

It’s all working now. Cross your fingers. It keeps working. But also my house is now technically. Done, finally. We’ve been doing lots of fine tuning and the HVAC team came and finished out the HVAC system. Uh, the ERV had to be fixed. The, the circuit board had been damaged somehow, but everything is now working.

And I am so relieved that it’s over, uh, would be an understatement. So it’s a good day. It’s a good day.

Well, congratulations on that. That’s quite, uh, it’s a long haul. You’ve been doing this for years now and I’m sure there’s a sense of relief that is just awe inspiring. Yep. Congratulations. Before we get into our conversation about Matt’s most recent episode, which is taking a look at a means of producing electricity from humidity, which sounds, I mean, snake oil, anybody?

Yeah, it sounds pretty strange, but we’ll get into that in a moment. Before we do, I wanted to share some comments from. Our more recent episode, Matt’s most recent episode prior to this, is a geothermal heat pump worth it? The comments continue to come in on this video from two weeks ago, like this one from Techmaster Joe, who wrote in to say, I have a ground floor condo, so I have limited options because of the homeowners association, 27 year old central air unit with resistive heat.

With a three head mini split system, 22 sear inverter variable heat pump setup. Replaced my washer dryer units with a single GE ultra fast combo. It has a heat pump. And replaced the electric coil top stove with an induction stove. And updated with LED lighting everywhere. I did all this in just a week after getting a 540 electric bill for a 708 kilowatt hour usage as the rates at my locations are, and I love this line, the rates in my location are…

Stupid. I still have one last thing to change, and that’s the fridge, but this past month my bill was 167, and we only used 173 kilowatt hours for the month that a family of four In an 1100 square foot condo that only really eats at home and generally has 2 3 loads of laundry per day. 2 3 loads of laundry per day is a lot, so I’m imagining in this family of four, you have at least one small child.

Because that sounds like loads of laundry that are like, Okay, baby’s ready, oops, spilled the juice, gotta do some laundry, oops, spilled the juice again, more laundry. That’s yeah, that sounds to me like this is a, this is a filthy toddler running about this home,


staggering numbers. I mean, I really like this jumped out at me 540 for an electric bill in one month.

It’s followed by 167 just by. Updating, like, the simplicity of a 27 year old central air unit, replacing something that this isn’t even like a house that’s looking at, like, Oh, this thing’s been here since the 1950s. 27 years old is the 1990s. Yeah. That’s not so that’s not that old considering, like. What era we’re talking about, but replacing them, these other things and suddenly having a savings of almost 400 per month.

These things will pay for themselves in a year, a year, a year and a half. I mean, that’s just, that’s just astounding. Yeah. So like, I wanted to share that comment and get your thoughts on it.

I was going to say that the price he’s paying per kilowatt hour is bananas. It sounds like he’s somewhere in California.

I don’t think he said where he is. He does

not say where he is, yeah. I bet he’s in

California. Here in Massachusetts, on a recent video of mine, somebody commented, they questioned my math on how much I was going to save on my geothermal system, where it was like, when I was comparing systems, it was like a thousand dollar gap, um, in between like an air source heat pump that I was looking at versus this ground source.

And it was like, and they tried to crunch the math to figure out like what it was. And they were, they were pulling random average kilowatt hours. around the country. Yeah. And I was like, you can’t do that. It’s like, I’m in Massachusetts. I’m paying around 30 cents or more. per kilowatt hour. Yeah. It’s like he’s probably paying 40 cents or something ridiculous.

Yeah. So it’s like when you live in an area where electricity prices are high, these kinds of changes make a massive difference. And I love seeing the example of how drastic a difference it can make. It’s incredible.

Yeah. Incredible. And what you just said ties right into the other comment I wanted to pull that was recently left on that same video.

This one from James Metzger who wrote to say someone in the field, meaning the field of putting in geothermal. Uh, he pumps someone in the field told me vertical wells are cheaper than horizontal and this. I, as soon as I read that, yeah, I went back to our old mantra, the right tool for the right job.

Context is key in this. I can only imagine, yeah, vertical might be cheaper if you’re digging into sediment that is consistent to a massive depth and nobody has to worry about hitting something. But somebody else, like you might go down six feet and hit a massive… Granite Ledge, and somebody else… And then suddenly you’re talking about explosives as opposed to somebody else who can go down for 60 feet and never worry about hitting anything but shale.

Yeah. So it’s, it really is, context is key and that goes back to what you just said about the electric prices across the country and across the world not being equal. Everybody needs to be able to have. guidance effectively in evaluating their own context and understanding if I pull the switch on putting in solar or a heat pump or more insulation, what does that do for me in the context in which I live?

And that is going to come up more in the newest video that we’re going to be talking about in a little bit, which is how do you, how do you produce electricity using humidity? Well, you’re not going to be doing that. In certain parts of the world where the humidity is just simply not going to be high enough.

One thing I’d want to add to that about the context is key. I have a water furnace geothermal system and I’ve talked at water furnace. about costs of systems versus mine. And some of the information they gave me was shocking. The cost of my system, you know, like in my video, I talked about it was like 78, 000 just for the basic HVAC system and the plus the drilling and all that stuff, a similar system in Indiana, 38, 000.

So, it’s like, this is why I kept saying in that video, where you live, your price could be very different from mine. Like I said, do not take

my CDA as It’s the old tagline. It’s the old tagline from commercials. Prices may vary. Yeah.

Location, labor costs, all that kind of stuff really factors in. Um, so it’s, you, you can’t just look at one source.

You have to look at dozens and see. Where it’s going to be in your region to figure out what it might actually

cost you. The expertise and the availability of expertise in the market from contractors who put these things in, if you have one person in your town who knows how to put in that kind of system, that person can charge whatever they like.

If you’ve got a hundred people in your town who know how to put in that system, prices will go down. That is simple capitalist economics. Availability of the parts, availability of. The shipping costs of getting something, if it’s being produced on a coastal city and you live somewhere in the middle of the country, you’re going to be paying for transportation costs that somebody who lives on the coastal side isn’t going to be paying.

So all of these things play apart. So it’s, it’s all context, context, context, and research. And You know, I appreciate the comments from people who are like, Oh, I know a guy. That’s great that you know a guy. Like, and if you know a guy who’s in that business and they’re an expert, rely on that. But when we play the game of telephone and, Oh, I heard from a friend who has a brother who said that this thing is not true.

You really got to start questioning that information. That’s like, Oh, I know a guy who stationed at the science station in Antarctica and he said, you never want to do geothermal. Like, what are you talking about? Like this is not helpful to me here in Indiana or Iowa or Alaska. Moving Matt’s most recent video, which is from October 10th, 2023.

Is this accidental discovery the future of energy, question mark? This, am I correct, Matt? Is this the video in which you’ve coined the term meat space?

That’s probably my favorite part of the script. I actually question, should I keep that in there? Yeah, I’m going to keep that in there.

I had not heard the term. Is it a term that you’ve heard used? No. Okay, so… I’m planting the flag for you right here, right now. You’ve coined the term meatspace. The more I thought about it, the more I was like…

I can’t take credit for it though. I

actually… I can’t take credit for it though. Okay. Somebody on my team, somebody on my team put that in there and I was just like, that is… Brilliant. Yeah. That is

brilliant. I, the more I thought about it, I was like, Oh my God, it actually makes so much sense. And I could actually understand.

I could picture somebody giving a TED talk in which they’re like, and of course we have to balance out what we’re putting investment wise into cyberspace versus what we’re doing in the meat space and having the audience go knowingly like, Hmm, yes, meat space. Investment in meat space. Uh, and I want you to put on a t-shirt.

You keep proving you are a t-shirt making machine. And this is another case where I just wanna see you walking down the street wearing a meat space, meat space, tshirt. I live in meat space. I live in meat space. Just like I’m a meat space explorer. Just like there, oh god. And meat space should be huge.

Block letters, just like giant. Meat space. I loved it. Uh, so a lot of this conversation around this is going to be a lot of speculation. That’s unavoidable. And this is a research breakthrough. I love the oopsie daisy nature of this. I love this stuff. Yeah. I love it. And as I said earlier, um, anybody got some snake oil?

It’s… It’s a little, huh? And it got me wondering, in your research, you must come across so many, huh, breakthroughs that just don’t pass your sniff test. And I’m wondering, would you care to share just one? Is there one, huh, breakthrough that hasn’t passed your sniff test that you still are like, okay, maybe five years from now, maybe they will.

Do what they’re claiming or maybe not, but like, does anything jump to mind? There’s

two that come to mind. One, I’ve already done a video on a couple of years ago, a company called NDB. I think that was their name. Uh, they created something called a nano diamond battery. That was a nuclear battery that they claimed would last for like 20, 000 years and it was going to power EVs and take over the world.

And whoa, that did not pass my sniff test at all. It’s like, no, kind of like this discovery, it only produced MW of energy, and it’s like, you’re not going to be able to do an EV with this, ever. It doesn’t make any sense why they’re claiming that. Um, and just recently news came out that NDB is being, um, investigated by the federal government for fraud, for making claims.

That they can’t cash, so they’re in

doo doo. So this goes back to kind of, I forget the name of the woman who made the claim of a medical, uh, breakthrough where you could like take one blood sample and be able to see everything, and it turned out it was all just complete hokum. But the stupidity

of that example is that their technology is real and it works and it’s not a crazy, like it’s, it’s all how they sold it.

It’s like, why were you saying this is going to be the future of EVs? No, but it could be great for Internet of Things devices and use in satellites. And there’s all these use cases that were like, yeah, that could be really cool and be very. Niche and specific, but they made claims that were just like clearly just trying to get money.

Another one that’s more recent, I have not done a video on it. It has around gravity energy batteries. I think Gravity Energy has a lot of interesting potential if people can figure out how to, potential

energy, real thing.

Yeah. Yeah. , um, I like the way you just called that out. Yeah. Uh, but there’s a company called Gravitricity that’s been struggling on how they had, they had original concept of how they were going to do it, but they’ve had to shift.

Um, it was basically reusing old mine shafts, but they discovered that mine shafts aren’t a great use case for this because they don’t have the structural integrity that’s needed. And there’s other things that were. Causing problems. And then there’s another company. I can’t remember what the name of it was, but they had this whole design of this basically gigantic structure where they just keep moving blocks of concrete around.

And uh, the original concept of that is like one of those that’s like, interesting idea. I don’t think that’s going to work. Uh, but they’re still iterating it and their iterations are looking more and more plausible, but the sniff test is still a little like a hinky for me. Right. Um. Okay. But I’m keeping my eye on it because all it takes is for them to kind of crack the nut on like some of these potential pitfalls of what they’re doing that maybe they can figure it out.

So it’s like I’m keeping an eye on them. Um, I don’t feel like they’re selling snake oil, but it’s, it, it just may not work out. But yeah, there’s definitely a lot of these things that bubble up. And this video specifically, there was a question around, should we do this one? Because it’s so early and so speculative.


like, does this.

Is this on the bubble? And I opted no, mainly because it’s legitimate research that has been vetted and it’s, and it shows potential, but there’s the fascinating part is there was an accidental discovery at the university. And then it was like, they still don’t completely know what’s happening here.

Yeah. They know the result, but they can’t, they have theories as to why it’s happening, but nobody truly knows quite yet. And I love the fact that we’re on the cusp of trying to discover what’s going on here. I just, I just love that.

Well, that’s how x rays were discovered as well. That’s, I mean, the idea that somebody put photographic paper nearby a radioactive source and then when they developed it, they realized, wait, something is, there’s an image here that has occurred and eventually piecing together like, Oh, I’m using this metal seems to be doing something to this photographic paper.

And that’s how x ray. was discovered. Um, and of course at that time people were also, researchers were doing things like carrying radium around in their pockets and then getting cancer and dying. So, um, you know, sometimes if you see like, hey, my photographic paper seems to be affected by this, maybe don’t stand next to it or put it in your pocket and walk around with it.

Uh, you mentioned the student who Helped initiate this research by simply forgetting to plug in the device and they recognized that there was electricity still being registered. I Would like to ask our listeners and our viewers to put on their imagination helmets now and think about a future where somebody is touring the Smithsonian and they go into a section on the breakthrough energy production that is now just a standard energy use that everybody has in their phones and devices where humidity is turned into electricity.

And, and there’s an image of one of the first researchers who was responsible for this, and it’s a picture of Gary who simply forgot to plug in the device. And it’s just Gary like, whoopsies, like. I, I, what an ignominious, uh, way to get into the history books. Without this doofus for getting to plug in the device, we never would have had this breakthrough.

Thanks, Gary, for not remembering to do something basic. I mean, poor Gary. Let’s, I was

going to say, let’s not throw Gary under the bus here. I mean, he is a student and he is probably an incredibly intelligent guy. So it’s like, he’s played a big role in this. But yeah, I do get your point. It’s pretty fun.

But it’s

right up there with. Uh, Doc Brown falling off of his tub, hitting his head on the toilet, and having the flux capacitor jump into his head. Um, so… You, in one point, you talk about the energy production here is, uh, very, very limited. You’re talking about nano energy production and you, I think it was very helpful to say enough energy is produced to illuminate a pixel on a screen.

However, it might be helpful. For a sense of scale, how many pixels are there on a screen? Let’s say just a standard computer monitor.

Oh, that’s a good question. There’s hundreds of thousands on a standard monitor. So it’s like, yeah, for a sense of scale, it’s very

tiny. Yeah. So it might not even be something if you’re looking for energy production that you could see, I would argue you might not even be able to see that.

Like, think of a screen. I dunno if you, you could, unpowered could, but One pixel. One pixel. Yeah. You think you could see one pixel?

Have you ever had a screen that you’ve bought that has a defective pixel? , because I have probably, you, you notice it? There’s one random green pixel in the middle of your screen.

It’s like, uh, okay.

There’s also some speculation about like, what could this mean? Like, what’s the sense of scale here? What’s the end product? And you, and you say, what about the idea of being able to charge your phone anywhere? I would even jump into deeper speculation. Wouldn’t this potentially be a kind of tech that could be embedded in devices so that you would end up with Energy being produced latently in the background and maybe slowing your need to even charge your device?

In the, if we’re in sci fi land, yeah, but it comes back to how much energy, like the device that they did in the lab was so small. Yeah. It’s like, how, how many of those things would you need to be able to create enough current to charge your phone? And would that fit inside of a phone? So that’s the big question.

It’s like, if they could do that. Right. Um. But yeah, if they in theory could figure out how to do that, then yes, you could have, it’s like putting solar panels on a car where the solar panels by themselves aren’t enough to charge the car up completely, but just leaving it outside parked all day, right? You add 10 miles into your car over the course of a sunny day when it’s parked outside.

No, that didn’t charge it completely, but that’s, you drive 10 miles home. So it’s like, it just gave you enough charge to get home. In theory,

maybe that’s what I was, that’s what I was thinking. And of course that goes back to scale. It would have to be something. You don’t want to give up real estate in a phone for something that’s not gonna benefit it, and you don’t want to give up real estate in a phone that’s going to increase the size of the phone to make it actually pointless.

To do in the first place, but something

we get more expensive to the point where it doesn’t make sense. Yeah, right.

But to incorporate something like that in a laptop, if it was to increase, like if you went to a computer manufacturer and said, look, the batteries you have today last, how long? 10 hours.

What if we could increase that by 10 percent and it doesn’t cost too much? Yeah, that I think, I think there would be computer manufacturers that would say, yeah, let’s start. Figuring out how to fit that in, um, because any amount of increase of battery life, especially if it can be doing it passively while the computer is off, I think that consumers would absorb those costs without much hesitation.

There were lots of comments on this one, including this one from Cataclysmic Nothing, who wrote in to say, if you get electricity from humidity, then wouldn’t you say that it’s coming from thick air instead of thin air? Well done, Cataclysmic. Well done, sir. Well done. There was also this, which was in line with what we were just talking about.

Jennifer Hayden jumped in to say, I think one use that could be helpful is turning on vent fans. Many people forget, I do, to turn on the vent fan after a shower. A power source that only works in humidity could turn the fan on when the humidity is high and then run out of juice as the humidity is gone.

Make some tricky calibration, but once done, it could have a lasting impact on reducing mold, mildew, and certain environments. That’s crazy. I think that’s genius. Jennifer, I hate to say it, I think you just gave away a million dollar idea. Yeah, I

was about to say, if they figure this out, that is a million dollar idea right


I was like, oh my god, Jennifer, Jennifer, what did you do? Like, vents in a home, like in the attic space, yeah, in the attic or the basement. Just got a vent fan. You don’t have to link it up to anything when it’s too humid. I mean, just imagine the contractor saying like, look, we’ll put these fans in here.

They’re not connected to anything. They detect the humidity, they run on the humidity. And when the humidity is gone, they turn themselves off. So win, win, win. And Jennifer, Jennifer, Jennifer. What are you doing? They say don’t read the comments, but Jennifer, maybe you shouldn’t post on the comments because you’re giving these ideas away for


No, but keep, keep, keep posting the comments. Yeah.

Paolo jumped in to say, this reminds me of an atmospheric electricity nanotube antenna from a couple of years ago. Nanotubes grown on a metal plate and placed on a pole. A couple of hundred feet in the air. It worked on the voltage differential between it and the ground. They said it was generating tens of watts from a panel the size of half of a smartphone.

So had you heard about that at all? No,


that’s, that’s new to me. That’s, that’s trippy.

Maybe jot that down in your, uh, snake oil, but maybe not list. Yeah, John Appell shared this thought, the prospect of being able to use biological materials is pretty intriguing. Imagine being able to grow the battery films in a bioreactor.

Solar Punk writers take note. Trust me, John, they have. They have taken note. I loved the, they, the number of iterations that they researched punching holes in. Everything. Everything. I mean, you talked about wood fiber, uh, with silicone in there, metals, yeah. And then including growing things using bacteria.

And that one was the one that I was suddenly like, Oh boy, hold back the fiction writer brain because that’s not the point of this podcast. But boy, that, I mean, just the, the idea that you could, let’s Say for a moment that there is something to the reaction that’s happening here. You mentioned the video.

It’s entirely possible that the reaction is happening could in fact be a type of metallurgical reaction that would be a form of corrosion, which means. That this as a power source would effectively be breaking itself down and it would simply stop working. So it would be, it would be moot. Let’s say that that is in fact, what’s happening.

I can’t help but wonder if that is what is happening, but your original source of creating the thing is bacterial growth. Could you create a medium where the bacterial growth is keeping this reaction going because it’s regrowing what is eroding.

Sean’s science fiction writing brain is like going into overdrive right now. I’m

just like, I’m, I’m on the verge of having to start working on book three of my Sinister Secrets series because the Sinister Secrets of Singe which is out now is the first book. I’m currently working on revisions of the second book.

And I’m having to scout out ideas for book three and I can’t even begin to tell you how timely this moment is for me in potentially leading to subject matter for book three. It is perfect. Brady Carlson jumped in with this comment, Hey Matt. I think it would be really cool if you made a series where you go back through some of your older videos and show us where the technology is today and how it’s played out after the time of posting.

This is something Sean has asked for in the past. And Sean always encourages and Matt always says, yeah, that’s a great idea.

It doesn’t happen as often. Well, here’s, here’s why it doesn’t happen as often as you’d hope. I do have, like, if you could see, I use Notion to maintain all the story ideas we’re doing and, like, I have tickets for all this different stuff.

And I have a bunch of tickets that are revisiting colon and then the name of the thing. Like, they’re all on there. And whenever there’s news items, we add the news items to it. And it’s kind of like, I’m waiting for Kind of like a critical mass of information to be able to turn around and make a video about like, what’s happened since the last time we talked about this.

So it’s like, I can’t say to the scientists, Hey, speed up, chop, chop. I got to make a video. It’s like, I’m, I’m waiting on the stuff that’s happening. But one of the things that we’re going to be doing at the end of this year is we’re going to be doing a, um, 2023 revisit of like the year, like what happened in 2023?

What are the big things that we should kind of want to recap? So some of this can roll into that. So we might be just doing a big dump of a video. That sounded awful. I’m sorry. At the end of the year. That will, uh. include

some of this. The t shirt ideas just keep rolling out of Matt’s mouth. Let’s keep track of this.

He just said they’re going to take a big dump and that’s after he said earlier, without even realizing it, revisiting colon. So listeners, what do you think? Let us know in the comments. Jump into the comments, as you can tell, the comments drive not only the content of this program, they drive the content of Matt’s main program, and they even drive some of the content, apparently, of my fiction.

So thank you so much for all of that, and if you’d like to support the show, please do consider leaving a review on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, wherever it was you listened to this or watched us. Go back there, leave a review. Don’t forget to subscribe and please do share it with your friends. All of those are great ways to support us.

And if you’d like to more directly support us, you can go to stilltbd. fm. Click the become a supporter button. It allows you to throw some coins at our heads. We appreciate the welts. And then we say things like revisiting colon. Thank you so much, everybody, for spending your time with us. We’ll talk to you next time.

← Older
Newer →

Leave a Reply