A new type of concrete has been developed by researchers from MIT that can store energy like a battery. This innovative concrete could potentially be used in the construction of self-sufficient buildings in the future.
An Innovative Approach to Energy Storage
Today, solar and wind energy are excellent sources of renewable energy and are increasingly being used. However, they have a notable problem – they are not always available as they depend on the weather conditions of the environment in which they are installed. For example, wind turbines, although generally placed in regularly windy areas, do not always have a continuous and consistent wind flow. The same goes for sunlight, which does not shine continuously throughout the year.
To maintain a continuous current when needed, renewable energy needs to be stored in batteries or piles, which are expensive, have a relatively limited lifespan, and also pose problems of hazardous waste for the environment. Therefore, renewable energy can sometimes be paradoxical – its production is considered relatively low-impact on the environment, but its storage can be harmful to nature.
In an attempt to find a solution to this paradox, researchers at MIT have developed a new type of concrete. By combining cement, water, and a form of carbon called “carbon black,” they have produced a concrete that acts as a supercapacitor, meaning it can store energy. In the future, researchers hope that this new material can be integrated into the construction of houses and other infrastructure. Combined with renewable energy, it could create completely autonomous and sustainable buildings, or even entire neighborhoods!
While this type of concrete could eventually be used in the construction of entire buildings, it can also be used for other purposes. According to the researchers, it could, for example, be used in the construction of roads or parking lots, serving as a wireless charging system for electric vehicles. Wind and solar parks could also use it to directly store energy on-site, reducing the need for batteries.
The materials used are relatively inexpensive and widely available on Earth, making this concrete a potentially revolutionary technology. It can be produced almost anywhere in the world, reducing the need for imports and therefore also reducing its environmental impact.
An Untested Technology: Still in Need of Testing
Despite the potential advantages of this new technology, it is still in its early stages and requires further testing and improvement in the coming months. Researchers are still unsure of how many charge cycles these supercapacitors can perform before losing efficiency, which is a crucial aspect that needs to be determined before widespread use. Initial laboratory tests suggest that they could power an average household in the United States or the United Kingdom for approximately 30 years, but scientists believe that this lifespan can be extended as the technology advances.
In addition, addressing safety concerns is also important. For example, how will this material interact with lightning? Could a lightning strike cause an overload and disrupt its functionality or pose a risk to the population? Furthermore, since this system requires a saline electrolytic solution, its design needs to be watertight, which could create challenges for rainwater drainage if used in road construction.
However, these concerns are technical details, and the technology continues to evolve as it is further developed. It will rely on the research efforts of scientists worldwide, which will undoubtedly lead to solutions for the current challenges. MIT scientists unanimously agree that this technology should be used and developed globally to become a true energy revolution in the future.
Although this type of energy storage concrete has only recently been developed, it could potentially become widespread in the relatively near future. Researchers estimate that the first prototypes of energy-independent homes could be produced within 18 months. However, other aspects such as electric vehicle charging will take more time and require further technological research.