Imagine if your whole house was a giant outlet.
Sound far-fetched? It’s not. This August, scientists from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri have created actual bricks that use their natural structure to hold energy.
These bricks are called “supercapacitors”, and they can easily and inexpensively store energy.
It makes sense, right? You have smart windows, doors that open for you… and now bricks have finally gotten their chance for a modern makeover.
The Washington University researchers found that the bricks can store enough energy to turn on LED lights, and could transform the entire home as a power source rather than having multiple outlets randomly scattered around.
It’s an easy and inexpensive process that can be done on old or new bricks and can even be used underwater! When connected to something like solar panels, it could help bring down monthly electric bills and maintenance costs.
How does this all work?
Basically, the porous physical structure allows scientists to follow these simple steps:
1. They infuse the brick with gases that coat the inside walls.
2. Once the gases are inside, they react with the bricks’ natural chemical, called hematite (it gives it that copper color). This creates a coating of a polymer called PEDOT – and the reaction between these two creates electrical conductivity.
3. The walls are then covered with epoxy to keep the elements out (and the electricity in). And thus, a reliable supercapacitor is born.
Even cooler: the result creates a dark blue brick instead of its usual copper tone.
So, they’re just cooler batteries?
If you think these energy storing bricks sound like batteries, then you’re not wrong… but you’re not exactly right either.
These bricks act as batteries that can constantly charge and recharge without having the brick break down quickly. The only downside is that they don’t hold or deliver their charge the same way a battery can.
“A battery will give you energy density that will allow you to drive 300 miles, but a supercapacitor will allow you to accelerate very quickly at a red light,” said Julio M. D’Arcy, an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University, and one of the study’s authors.
When will I be able to turn my house into a charger?
Well, even though this sounds ideal to make green homes in the future, it still cannot compete with many solar power systems due to its supercapacitor element. Currently, it can’t hold on to the charge or deliver sustainable energy over a long time.
And there’s still more research that needs to be done before it could be considered a realistic source of storing electricity. But researchers are hopeful that it could one day be a source of powerful, renewable energy.
What do you think – are we going to start designing homes with different materials? Or are these just fads that will pass with time? Let us know below in the comments!