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Scientists Use Polymer Coating to 'Power' Bricks

Monday, August 17, 2020

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Chemists from Washington University, in St. Louis, have reportedly developed a method to make or modify “smart bricks,” that they say can store energy until required for powering devices. The trick, according to researchers, is a polymer coating.

The researches published a proof-of-concept in Nature Communications last week, which shows a brick directly powering a green LED light.

The Research

“Our method works with regular brick or recycled bricks, and we can make our own bricks as well,” said Julio D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry.

“As a matter of fact, the work that we have published in Nature Communications stems from bricks that we bought at Home Depot right here in Brentwood (Missouri); each brick was 65 cents.”

Washington University

Chemists from Washington University, in St. Louis, have reportedly developed a method to make or modify “smart bricks,” that they say can store energy until required for powering devices. The trick, according to researchers, is a polymer coating.

D’Arcy and colleagues, including Washington University graduate student Hongmin Wang, first author of the new study, have illustrated how to convert red bricks into an energy storage device called a “supercapacitor.”

“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,” D’Arcy said.

The red pigment of the bricks, made of iron oxide, triggers the polymerization reaction.

In a separate article, D’Arcy discussed this conversion process: “The easiest way to remove rust from a surface is to add a little bit of acid. That’s what the rust remover you get at the hardware store is. Our conversion works the same way – we add acid and change the iron oxide by liberating an iron atom. That iron atom becomes the reactant for our polymer vapor,” D’Arcy explained. This process is known as rust-assisted vapor-phase polymerization.

In terms of the bricks, the scientists say they see promise for the building industry.

“PEDOT-coated bricks are ideal building blocks that can provide power to emergency lighting,” D’Arcy said. “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.

“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.”

   

Tagged categories: Brick; Coatings Technology; Coatings Technology; NA; North America; Polymers; Research and development

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