The polymer coated bricks work underwater and charge up to three volts in 10 seconds
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Spotted: Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, created a super-capacitor brick that stores energy and provides electrical power. Super-capacitors are rapidly recharged structures that store large amounts of energy that are quickly and easily discharged. The typical red brick used in construction around the world gets its ubiquitous colour from the mineral hematite. When the porous structure of a brick absorbs a polymer called PEDOT, the reaction with the hematite produces electrical conductivity.
The new chemical structure of the brick both stores and conducts energy. The team tested the bricks underwater and in different sized configurations above ground, finding the capacity for scalable use to be considerable. Importantly, the polymer coating works on old or new bricks, meaning that buildings could be retrofitted in order to reduce their consumption of energy.
As supercapacitors, the bricks charge and recharge hundreds of thousands of times each hour, without the degradation of materials or output. When used in large numbers and connected to renewable energy sources such as solar panels, the bricks could provide significant savings in cost, time and maintenance.
Finding ways to use analogue materials as part of a connected process is an interesting aspect of technological development. Examples Springwise has spotted recently include water-filled windows that heat and cool a building and a new building technique that combines digital design with master craftsmanship.
Written by: Keely Khoury