Walls can be power banks for houses as red bricks turn into energy storing batteries

Walls can be power banks for houses as red bricks turn into energy storing batteries
Red brick device developed by chemists at Washington University in St. Louis lights up a green light-emitting diode. The photo shows the core-shell architecture of a nanofibrillar PEDOT-coated brick electrode.D'Arcy laboratory, Department of Chemistry, Washington University in St. Louis
  • Researchers have found a way to turn the red bricks in our walls into power banks that can be used to store energy.
  • Bricks, as the cheapest and most commonly found construction material on the planet, could have a secondary purpose that would replace inverters and generators.
  • In the use-case presented by researchers at the Washington University, they used an ordinary 65 cent brick to light up a green bulb.
Red bricks are used to put up nearly every building on the planet. In addition to being the cheapest construction material on Earth, red bricks may also have the potential to serve as long-lasting batteries.

A new use-case presented by researchers at Washington University shows how red bricks can be turned into energy storage units that can be charged to hold electricity, like a battery.

It’s not a new kind of brick, and it’s not a unique creation from some lab. These red bricks are ordinary, run-of-the-mill, red bricks that are available at any construction site.

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This means all the large amounts of space already occupied by walls, buildings and multiplexes could be utilised better if it has an additional purpose for electricity storage. If implemented on a large scale, this means every wall, staircase and fireplace could essentially serve as a power bank.

How can a red brick charge your phone?
In the proof-of-concept, the researchers showed a red brick using electricity to light up a small green bulb.

The brick itself is nothing special. “The work that we have published in Nature Communications stems from bricks that we bought at Home Depot right in Brentwood, Missouri, each brick was 65 cents,” said Julio D’Arcy, one of the research team members.

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Ordinary red bricks can be converted into energy storage devices called supercapacitors by coating the brick with PEDOT, a conductive polymer. It’s made up of nanofibers that work through the network of a brick.

Once applied, the red pigments in the bricks — essentially iron oxide or rust — trigger the polymerisation reaction. With this, the coating remains trapped in the brick serving as an ion sponge that can store and conduct electricity.

"PEDOT-coated bricks are ideal building blocks that can provide power to emergency lighting," D'Arcy said.

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Such a solution could have numerous applications in developing countries, like India, where energy supply is not reliable. With PEDOT-coated red bricks, your house would essentially be able to power itself.

"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," said D’Arcy.

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