Washington University Researchers Explore Possibility of Converting Brick Walls into Batteries

Chemistry researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri explored the possibility of converting brick walls into a storage for electrical energy. The results of their experiment gave positive indications that brick walls can function like a batteries when attached to solar cells, while serving its decorative purpose. However, the researchers have yet to test whether the bricks can preserve their strength once the charged hematite components dissolve.

Assistant Chemistry Professor, Julio D’arcy and his colleagues at Washington University used regular red bricks commonly utilized in constructing houses. They then heated the bricks with acid vapor and applied a special conductive polymer called PEDOT (poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate), on brick materials to give the blocks the ability to store energy. However, since the bricks have been treated with acid, he does not recommend the as suitable materials for building construction purposes.

He added that they haven’t identified the material’s mechanical properties yet. Yet the point is that once they figure out a way to refine the method of converting bricks into batteries that are at the same time viable as building material, it is possible to have solar-powered brick walls that can be used for charging electronic devices.

Based on their experiment, a single piece of brick can hold more energy than an AA battery. Every three pieces of bricks, measuring 4 x 3 x 1 centimetre in size, can light up a green LEAD light for 10 minutes with only one charge. These battery bricks can be charged up to 10,000 times without losing more than ten percent (10%) of their storage capacity.

However, it is estimated that it would cost $2 to $3 dollars to produce a brick battery. That being the case, they still need to devise way on how to make the brick to battery conversion much cheaper, if to make it viable as a building material.

How the Researchers Converted the Bricks into Batteries

Professor D’arcy and his team first dissolved the hematite, which is the pigment mineral that gives the bricks their red color. The PEDOT chemical compounds were mixed in to make the dissolved hematite react, fully incorporating conductive PEDOT fibres into the dissolved hematite. Once the charged red minerals are applied as brick treatment, the red hematite color turns into a combination of dark brown and blue hues. To give the bricks a waterproof property, the bricks were coated with epoxy.