A brick wall could one day become a powerbank to charge electrical devices

Madeleine Cuff writes on the inews website that scientists have coated red bricks with conductive fibres, turning them into batteries that could store power for hours.


House bricks could become energy storage systems to charge electrical devices

A brick wall could one day become a powerbank to charge electrical devices, thanks to an energy storage breakthrough by scientists at Washington University in St Louis, US.

Treating the bricks with chemicals can turn them into super capacitors, the team suggests, a type of energy storage system that can charge and discharge large amounts of power quickly.

The invention could mean bricks along a nearby wall could be charged up from solar panels on a household roof, ready to provide power at a moment’s notice.

“We have in essence converted an inert and stable construction material into a semiconductor,” lead author Julio D’Arcy told i.

Supercharged bricks

D’Arcy and his colleagues created the smart bricks by reacting naturally occuring chemicals in brick dust with chemical additives to create a polymer coating. Once the bricks have been treated they are covered inside and out with tiny conductive fibres. After a waterproof coating, the bricks can be connected to a power source to charge up.

In the study published this week in Nature Communications, the researchers report how a brick was able to directly power a green LED light. In the real world the bricks could power an emergency light for 50 minutes after just 13 minutes charging, and be recharged thousands of times, D’Arcy said.

However, the researchers stress their ‘smart bricks’ probably won’t be able to be used in load bearing walls as the process of making them conductive may weaken their structure.

Early stage

British chemists not involved in the research cautioned that the bricks may not be able to store enough useful power to beat off batteries, and warned it would be a long time until power storing bricks appeared in the real world.

“Bricks are good for building houses and batteries are good at storing energy, combining the two without compromise will be a challenge,” said Dan Brett, Professor of Electrochemical Engineering at UCL.

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