The future of energy storage could be woven into industrial brick buildings.
As New Scientist reports, “A brick wall can also be a battery. Thanks to the red pigment they contain, bricks can be turned into efficient energy storage devices.”
The report details the work of Julio D’Arcy at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, who, along with his colleagues, used a special conductive polymer called PEDOT to make their energy-storing bricks.
The team took regular red bricks and heated them with an acid vapor. As the report describes:
This dissolved the haematite in the bricks, the mineral that gives them their red colour. The researchers then added other compounds, which reacted with the dissolved haematite. The end result was bricks riddled with a network of tiny, conductive PEDOT fibres.
An early prototype can hold enough of a charge to power an LED light:
As for their use as future energy storage devices:
These polymer-coated bricks could be hooked up to a power source to charge up. They store enough energy that three small bricks, each about 4 x 3 x 1 centimetre in size, could power a green LED light for about 10 minutes on a single charge. They could be charged 10,000 times without losing more than 10 per cent of their storage capacity.
The researchers admit that the final energy storage bricks may not have the structural capacity to be used as primary building materials, but they represent an intriguing future use scenario.
As cities industrial heritage brick architecture (old factories, warehouses, and so on) are repaired and repurposed for future use, a number of these brick batteries could be woven into the fabric of the renovated building.
Solar, wind turbines, geothermal, or other on-site renewable energy sources could charge the bricks, enabling them to be an on-demand energy source contained directly in the walls of the building itself.
As the report concludes: “we may eventually have brick walls that our electronics can plug right into.”
This isn’t the first initiative coming from Washington University to fit the resourceful urbanism focus of Reprogramming the City. The university was also the source of First Class Meal, a project that proposes disused post offices be used as food distribution centers. A project that is included in the Reprogramming the City book.