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Jun Yao - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Jun Yao

Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Jun Yao has made international news for his discovery of how to create power from the humidity in air.

Expertise (5)

Synthesis of Nanomaterials

Green Electronics

Nanoelectronic Devices and Sensors

Bioelectronic Interfaces and Wearable Devices

Electricity from Air


Jun Yao works on the synthesis and electrical characterizations of nanomaterials, including exploring novel nanoelectronic and bioelectronic devices and sensors; developing large-scale assembly techniques to integrate these nanoelements for functional systems such as computing circuits, biochips, wearable electronics and implantable biomedical devices.

In 2023, he made international news when a research team he led figured out how to create power from thin air using a tiny device that generates electricity from humidity in the air.

Social Media






Harvesting Electricity Out of Thin Air with Jun Yao Generating Electricity from THIN AIR?! UMass Researchers Make Electricity from Humidity | Connecting Point | March 11, 2020


Education (3)

Rice University: Ph.D., Applied Physics

Fudan University: M.S., Physics

Fudan University: B.S., Electrical Engineering

Select Media Coverage (7)

How harvesting electricity from humid air could one day power our devices

BBC  online


No-one in the lab could quite believe what they were seeing. An experimental device, a humidity sensor, had started generating electrical signals. Fine, you might think – except that shouldn't have been possible. "For some reason, the student who was working on the device forgot to plug in the power," says Jun Yao at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. "That's the start of the story." Since that moment five years ago, Yao and his colleagues have been developing a technology that can harvest electricity from nothing but humid air: a concept known as hygroelectricity.


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‘It was an accident’: the scientists who have turned humid air into renewable power

The Guardian  online


“To be frank, it was an accident,” says 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.”

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This New Device Generates Electricity From Thin Air

Smithsonian Magazine  


“What we have invented, you can imagine it’s like a small-scale, man-made cloud,” Jun Yao, a co-author of the new paper and an electrical engineer at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “The entire Earth is covered with a thick layer of humidity,” Yao tells the Washington Post. “It’s an enormous source of clean energy. This is just the beginning in making use of that," Yao says.

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Scientists generate 'electricity from thin air.' Humidity could be a boundless source of energy, they say.

USA Today  online


“The air contains an enormous amount of electricity,” said Jun Yao, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the paper’s senior author. “Think of a cloud, which is nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets contains a charge, and when conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt – but we don’t know how to reliably capture electricity from lightning.

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Scientists find way to make energy from air using nearly any material

The Washington Post  online


“What we have invented, you can imagine it’s like a small-scale, man-made cloud,” said Jun Yao, a professor of engineering at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the senior author of the study. “This is really a very easily accessible, enormous source of continuous clean electricity. Imagine having clean electricity available wherever you go.”

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Scientists Harvest Electricity From "Thin Air" Using Strange Material

Futurism  online


"The air contains an enormous amount of electricity," Jun Yao said. "Think of a cloud, which is nothing more than a mass of water droplets. Each of those droplets contains a charge, and when conditions are right, the cloud can produce a lightning bolt—but we don’t know how to reliably capture electricity from lightning. What we’ve done is to create a human-built, small-scale cloud that produces electricity for us predictably and continuously so that we can harvest it."

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Generating electricity ‘out of thin air’

Cosmos Magazine  online


Writing in the journal Nature, electrical engineer Jun Yao and microbiologist Derek Lovley, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, introduce the Air-gen (or air-powered generator), which Lovley describes as “the most amazing and exciting application of protein nanowires yet”.

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Select Publications (5)

Two-Terminal MoS2 Memristor and the Homogeneous Integration with a MoS2 Transistor for Neural Networks

Nano Letters

2023 Memristors are promising candidates for constructing neural networks. However, their dissimilar working mechanism to that of the addressing transistors can result in a scaling mismatch, which may hinder efficient integration. Here, we demonstrate two-terminal MoS2 memristors that work with a charge-based mechanism similar to that in transistors, which enables the homogeneous integration with MoS2 transistors to realize one-transistor–one-memristor addressable cells for assembling programmable networks

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Generic Air‐gen Effect in Nanoporous Materials for Sustainable Energy Harvesting from Air Humidity

Advanced Materials

2023 Air humidity is a vast, sustainable reservoir of energy that, unlike solar and wind, is continuously available. However, previously described technologies for harvesting energy from air humidity are either not continuous or require unique material synthesis or processing, which has stymied scalability and broad deployment. Here, we report a generic effect for continuous energy harvesting from air humidity, which can be applied to a broad range of inorganic, organic, and biological materials. The common feature of these materials is that they are engineered with appropriate nanopores to allow air water to pass through and undergo dynamic adsorption‐desorption exchange at the porous interface, resulting in surface charging.

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Microbial nanowires with genetically modified peptide ligands to sustainably fabricate electronic sensing devices

Biosensors and Bioelectronics

2023 Nanowires have substantial potential as the sensor component in electronic sensing devices. However, surface functionalization of traditional nanowire and nanotube materials with short peptides that increase sensor selectivity and sensitivity requires complex chemistries with toxic reagents. In contrast, microorganisms can assemble pilin monomers into protein nanowires with intrinsic conductivity from renewable feedstocks, yielding an electronic material that is robust and stable in applications, but also biodegradable.

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Recent Progress in Bio-voltage Memristors Working with Ultralow Voltage of Biological Amplitude


2023 Neuromorphic systems built from memristors that emulate bioelectrical information processing in the brain may overcome the limitations of traditional computing architectures. However, functional emulation alone may still not attain all the merits of bio-computation, which uses action potentials of 50–120 mV at least 10 times lower than signal amplitude in conventional electronics to achieve extraordinary power efficiency and effective functional integration. Reducing the functional voltage in memristors to this biological amplitude can thus advance neuromorphic engineering and bio-emulated integration. This review aims to provide a timely update on the effort and progress in this burgeoning research direction, covering the aspects of device material composition, performance, working mechanism, and potential application.

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An Effective Sneak‐Path Solution Based on a Transient‐Relaxation Device

Advanced Materials

2023 An efficient strategy for addressing individual devices is required to unveil the full potential of memristors for high‐density memory and computing applications. Existing strategies using two‐terminal selectors that are preferable for compact integration have trade‐offs in reduced generality or functional window. A strategy that applies to broad memristors and maintains their full‐range functional window is proposed. This strategy uses a type of unipolar switch featuring a transient relaxation or retention as the selector. The unidirectional current flow in the switch suppresses the sneak‐path current, whereas the transient‐relaxation window is exploited for bidirectional programming.

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