Researchers develop method to store energy in red bricks

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,597   +124
Staff member
Why it matters: Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have developed a method to store energy using red bricks, an abundant and affordable building material that has been in use for thousands of years. Commercial plans weren't mentioned but it's easy to see how this could be implemented in the real world, perhaps in conjunction with solar cells, to have a serious impact on how we store energy.

To make its “smart bricks,” the team created a coating made of the conducting polymer PEDOT. The nanofibers in the coating are able to penetrate the inner porous material of the brick, serving as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity.

The red pigment in the bricks, rust, is key to triggering the polymerization reaction.

According to Julio D’Arcy, an assistant professor of chemistry that worked on the project, the coating is compatible with regular and recycled bricks. “The work that we have published in Nature Communications stems from bricks that we bought at Home Depot right here in Brentwood (Missouri); each brick was 65 cents,” D’Arcy added.

Walls constructed of these smart bricks could store a substantial amount of energy and make better use of existing structures. For example, D’Arcy said just 50 bricks could power emergency lighting for up to five hours.

“Advantageously, a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour. If you connect a couple of bricks, microelectronics sensors would be easily powered.”

The team’s research was published in the August 11 edition of Nature Communications.

Masthead credit: leungchopan

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Nicromancer

Posts: 15   +10
"50 bricks could power emergency lighting for up to five hours."

If it is LED, I am not impressed at all. We a talking about 50 bricks after all.
 
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DjoCoeur

Posts: 23   +11
Not sure that's as brilliant as it seems.
We all know, some heat is created in any storage when energy is sent in. In the summer you don't want your walls to warm up, and in the winter lots of the energy would be wasted because of heat transfer with the cold air. That's why all batteries eventually lose their charge even when not in use.

And we also know that any stuff with lots of energy in it can become a fire hazard if that energy can find a way out all at once.
 

silversea

Posts: 20   +39
So the way I am reading this article my home which is all brick has about 45,000 over sized bricks in its structure should generate over 4,500 hours lighting, can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times depending on total cost of such a system I could be in on that hell beats paying 250.00 to 350.00 every month for electricity
 

mbrowne5061

Posts: 1,633   +926
Not sure that's as brilliant as it seems.
We all know, some heat is created in any storage when energy is sent in. In the summer you don't want your walls to warm up, and in the winter lots of the energy would be wasted because of heat transfer with the cold air. That's why all batteries eventually lose their charge even when not in use.

And we also know that any stuff with lots of energy in it can become a fire hazard if that energy can find a way out all at once.
It sounds like these function as capacitors, not batteries. Batteries store energy as electro-chemical reactions, making them sensitive to temperature changes. Capacitors store energy as electric fields, making them resilient to temperature changes.
 

Markoni35

Posts: 777   +271
Looks like a waste of electricity. Batteries are very good in keeping the losses low. I doubt this brick would be that efficient. So..... if you have an abundant source of energy that is otherwise wasted, no problems. But if your source of energy is precious/expensive then those bricks are useless.

Maybe if they combine solar coating with bricks, so that bricks collect and store solar energy, that would be some kind of a temporary solution.