Engineers at MIT have developed a potentially revolutionary type of concrete able to store energy. Here’s how this could become an affordable boon for the inevitable renewable revolution.
Imagine a future where the solar panels on our roofs generate energy which is then stored in the walls and foundations of our homes.
It may sound far-fetched, but this is an increasingly realistic prospect thanks to a recent breakthrough at MIT. Civil engineers at the institute have created a new type of concrete able to hold energy through a creative alteration to the material’s usual composition.
By combining concrete with carbon black – a black powder used as ink for the Dead Sea Scrolls around 2,000 years ago – and water, a branching network of long carbon ‘wires’ are formed as the cement hardens. At this point the mix becomes an effective super-capacitor, meaning it can hold an electric charge.
A key advantage over batteries, which work by converting chemical energy into electrical energy, is that super-capacitors do not degrade over time or lose the ability to hold charge.
Researchers say carbon black is also vastly cheaper than rare metal components like cobalt and lithium, and would add little cost to the production of current concrete. There’s also no need to mine, which is an ecological killer.