In future the materials used in buildings could play a vital role in fighting the climate crisis, as new technology advances could allow bricks to store energy.
A research team at Washington University in St Louis, U.S., has found a way to use nanotechnology to fill the pores in a standard red fired house brick with plastic that can conduct electricity and store a charge. That turns the brick into a kind of super capacitor, which can charge and discharge electricity faster than a standard lithium ion battery.
At the moment, a brick could only store about 1% of the electricity of a traditional battery, but as the technology improves it is expected to become more efficient and cheaper. Eventually the bricks used today in building facades could be a cheap and effective way to store the energy created by solar panels, reducing the necessity for fossil fuels.
“This technology is way cheaper than lithium ion batteries,” Washington University researcher Julio D’Arcy said. “It would be a different world and you would not hear the words ‘lithium ion battery’ again.”
The research was first reported in the journal Nature Communications. Turning the bricks into energy storage units reduces their load-bearing capacity, meaning they would not be able to be used to create entire buildings. It would also have an aesthetic impact: The chemical reaction that occurs when they are charged turns bricks blue.