Modified Bricks Can House Energy, Too

What if building an emergency battery were as easy as painting conductive plastic onto bricks, stacking them, and charging them up? Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have done just that — they’ve created supercapacitors by modifying regular old red bricks from various big-box hardware stores.

The bricks are coated in poly(3,4-ethylenedioxythiophene) polystyrene sulfonate (PEDOT:PSS), a conductive polymer that soaks readily into the bricks’ porous surface. When the coated brick is connected to a power source such as a solar panel, the polymer soaks up ions like a sponge. PEDOT:PSS reacts with the iron oxide in the bricks, the rust that gives them their reddish-orange color. Check out the demonstration after the break — it’s a time lapse that shows three PEDOT-coated bricks powering a white LED for ten minutes.

We envision a future where a brick house could double as a battery backup when the power goes out. The researchers thought of that too, or at least had their eye on the outdoors. They waterproofed the PEDOT-coated bricks in epoxy and found they retain 90% of their capacitance and are still efficient after 10,000 charge-discharge cycles. Since this doesn’t take any special kind of brick, it seems to us that any sufficiently porous material would work as long as iron oxide is also present for the reaction. What do you think?

If you can get your hands on the stuff, PEDOT:PSS has all kinds of uses from paper-thin conductors to homebrew organic LEDs.

Continue reading “Modified Bricks Can House Energy, Too”

Global Village Construction Set

The Global Village Construction Set is an open hardware initiative aimed at sharing tool-building knowledge. They believe that to build civilization you need forty basic tools, eight of which they’ve already prototyped and made available on their wiki. Included in these is a tractor which reminds us of a beefy bobcat. It has a soil pulverizing attachment which can be used to break down soil and feed it to their soil brick compressor. That machine spits out compressed dirt bricks which are used as building materials. They’re stacked on concrete footings and then limewashed to protect the un-baked bricks from water erosion. Does this remind anyone else of real-life Minecraft?

Above you can see a group of Open Source Ecology developers showing off bricks in front of the machine that made them, with the tractor/soil pulverizer to the right. Take a look at the videos about the construction set and brickmaking after the break. And learn more by perusing their weblog.

If you think an apocalypse is on the way you might want to buddy-up with these folks. They seem to know what they’re doing.

Continue reading “Global Village Construction Set”