Scientists turn the common brick into a battery with polymer coating

Fired red bricks can be converted into energy storage units that can be charged to hold electricity, like a battery, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Chemists there developed a coating of the conducting polymer, poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene), or PEDOT, which is comprised of nanofibers that penetrate the porous brick.

This coating serves as an ion sponge that stores and conducts electricity.

Their paper, published this week in Nature Communications, shows a brick directly powering a green LED light. 

The researchers believe that walls made of such energy-storing bricks could store a substantial amount of energy.

"PEDOT-coated bricks are ideal building blocks that can provide power to emergency lighting," said Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry. 

"We envision that this could be a reality when you connect our bricks with solar cells – this could take 50 bricks in close proximity to the load. These 50 bricks would enable powering emergency lighting for five hours."

D’Arcy added: "Advantageously, a brick wall serving as a supercapacitor can be recharged hundreds of thousands of times within an hour. If you connect a couple of bricks, microelectronics sensors would be easily powered."

He said the method works with regular or recycled bricks. Their experiment used 65-cent bricks from the local Home Depot.

The red pigment in bricks – iron oxide, or rust – is essential for triggering the polymerisation reaction.

Image: Chemists at Washington University in St. Louis demonstrated how a painted brick can directly power a green LED light (Image: D’Arcy laboratory)

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