Out-of-the-box but also functional? Check! A new type of battery that can be used by ordinary people in daily life? Check! Perfectly matching the industrial red-brick style of his West Orange lab? Check! It makes you wonder if Thomas Edison himself didn’t create this new innovation.
After centuries of use, the humble red brick now offers exciting new possibilities in an invention called the “smart brick.” According to Professor Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University, and his research team, red bricks can be made into a “supercapacitor”, which is able to store electricity for use later in the same way that Thomas Edison storage battery did.
The technological process explained on TechSpot.com boasts “an abundant and affordable building material that has been in use for thousands of years.” PEDOT is the coating they created whose “nanofibers are able to penetrate the inner porous material of the brick, serving as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity. The red pigment in the bricks, rust, is key to triggering the polymerization reaction.”
In the future, D’Arcy states, a brick wall might potentially serve a double purpose: supplying structural support and storing electrical power created from renewable resource sources, such as solar panels. In the TechSpot article, D’Arcy also said that just 50 bricks could power emergency lighting for up to five hours.
It is worth noting that concrete and other brick-like materials have been used for many years by architects as thermal storage to supplement the heating needs of passive solar/energy conservation homes.
Scientists and engineers have long dreamed of building energy producing houses, including Edison. “Smart bricks” like this and other inventions like spray on coatings on roofs are just the beginning of the instantaneously electrified houses of Edison’s dreams.