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Energy storage in cement

Energy storage in cement – it is possible!
Graphene and carbon nanotubes the key
How it’s working?

Energy storage in cement - it is possible!

New technology can help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can obtain electricity from renewable energy sources, such as solar energy and wind. Then we can store it in a suitable material and use it to power houses and buildings at night or during the day when there is no sun or wind. Energy storage in cement – because we are talking about such an invention – is based on the concept of using concrete to store electricity. Concrete is a durable, inexpensive and plentiful material. Specialists have enriched it with materials that enable the storage of electricity. The breakthrough discovery was made by scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University in the USA. The idea was published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2304318120).

Graphene and carbon nanotubes the key

Scientists around the world have been trying for years to produce a building material that would be able to store energy. Unfortunately, cement – the main component of concrete – is itself a poor electrical conductor. Quite recently, several research teams have created a structured supercapacitor. A supercapacitor is an energy storage device where we use an electrostatic field to store electrical energy. These devices are similar to batteries, but have a much higher capacity. So we can store more energy per unit volume. Supercapacitors are also faster to charge and discharge than batteries.

It was through the use of a structural supercapacitor that researchers enriched the cement with highly conductive forms of carbon, such as graphene or carbon nanotubes. While these work well, the ingredients needed to make them are expensive. Wanting to find a cheaper solution, the researchers came up with the idea to use soot, which was already used by people in ancient times as a black pigment. Soot is a product of the incomplete combustion of materials that contain carbon. Its advantage is usability and availability all over the world. The fact that it is also highly conductive is a leading asset. So we can add it to the cement, which would then become an electrical conductor due to the presence of energy-conducting soot.

Our material is fascinating because it is the most widely used man-made material in the world, which is cement that combines with soot, another well-known historical material that was used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls

Our material is fascinating because it is the most widely used man-made material in the world, which is cement that combines with soot, another well-known historical material that was used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls

says Admir Masic, a materials scientist at MIT.

The researchers dubbed the new material ‘electroporous concrete’. It is cheap, easy to produce and we can use it to store large amounts of energy. Electroporous concrete will be used to build houses and even bridges that would be able to store electricity generated from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. The new material has the potential to revolutionize the way we produce and consume energy. Thanks to electroporous concrete, we will be able to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and contribute to the protection of the environment.

How it's working?

Carbon black is added to the cement and then the water is absorbed by the cement. Water creates voids in the cement and soot accumulates in these voids. Soot particles form long threads that are electrically conductive. The cement modified in this way becomes a supercapacitor. Supercapacitors store electricity faster than batteries. They can also slow it down faster. The researchers cut the prepared material into small plates 1 millimeter thick and 1 centimeter wide. Membrane, electrolyte and water were added to the plates. The membrane helps keep the electrolyte in place, and the electrolyte conducts electricity. When we connect a cable to the tiles and flip a switch, the tiles begin to store and release electricity. Carbon black cement tiles are currently quite small and can only power a few LED bulbs, but scientists are working to scale them up. The technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we store energy and could help us reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

A new material made of cement, carbon black and water has potential as a way to store energy. It is cheap, widely available and can be scaled to different sizes. Researchers at MIT and Harvard University are working to increase the efficiency of the material so that it can match the output of a 12-volt car battery. The new material has many potential applications, including: energy storage in homes and buildings, powering electric cars, protecting critical infrastructure against power failures or powering telecommunications systems. Scientists believe the new material could revolutionize the way we store and use energy.

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