Red bricks are one of the strongest building materials that have been widely used in construction for more than 6,000 years. The term brick initially referred to the block that consisted of dry clay.
Currently, bricks are mainly utilized in walls and are usually joined together using mortar. Fired bricks are highly resistant to weather conditions. Moreover, they tend to absorb heat transferred during the day and release it during the night, a fact that is beneficial for preserving temperature conditions in a building.
In particular, chemist researchers from Washington University in St. Louis, have created a technique that makes bricks capable of storing power and using it to power devices. The bricks can be connected to solar panels and store renewable energy.
Bricks have a porous structure that enables the storing process. Those pores are filled with an acid vapor which acts as a dissolved for the iron oxide (or rust) from which bricks are composed. A gas is transferred through the cavities of bricks which are filled with a sulfur-based material that reacts with iron. As a result, a conductive plastic, polymer PEDOT, surrounds the bricks' porous. “In this work, we have developed a coating of the conducting polymer PEDOT, which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the inner porous network of a brick; a polymer coating remains trapped in a brick and serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity,” Julio M. D'Arcy, co-author of the study and an Assistant Professor of Chemistry at the Washington University in St. Louis, stated.
According to the scientific team, the proposed method could generate substantial amounts of renewable energy. Researchers estimated that 50 capacitor bricks would take 13 minutes to charge and could provide enough energy to power the emergency lighting of a building for at least 50 minutes.
Among other advantages, D’Arcy mentioned that the brick capacitors can be recharged multiple times within short time periods without any deficiencies.
Researchers emphasize the fact that iron oxide, a waste material has been turned into a useful product that can be utilized in the process of generating renewable energy. "Inert materials hold the potential to be transformative in chemical manufacturing," the team suggested.
The team's future goals are to increase the capacity of the energy storage by, at least, 10 times and decrease the cost and time of producing the polymer-coated bricks.