Scientists find how to power homes with concrete and charcoal

Credit: Franz-Josef Ulm, Admir Masic, and Yang-Shao Horn.

Researchers from MIT, a famous university in America, have come up with a smart idea. They’ve figured out a new way to store energy using everyday materials: concrete and charcoal powder.

This exciting discovery could make a big difference in the way we use energy from the sun, wind, and sea.

These sources are great because they don’t harm the planet, but they are not always reliable because the wind doesn’t always blow, and the sun doesn’t always shine.

Concrete and Charcoal: Unlikely Heroes

You might be wondering what concrete and charcoal powder have to do with energy storage.

Well, these scientists found out that when you mix concrete, charcoal powder, and water, you get a powerful energy storage device. It’s a bit like a giant battery.

This clever mix is based on how a supercapacitor works. A supercapacitor is like a very powerful battery. It can store a lot of energy and release it quickly when needed.

To imagine this, think of it as a water tank that can fill up very quickly and can also empty out in a flash when you need the water.

The magic is in the charcoal powder, called carbon black. It’s like a network of tiny wires within the concrete.

When you add water, the charcoal forms these tiny networks within the concrete that can store energy. It’s like having a lot of tiny batteries inside the concrete.

Turning Buildings into Giant Batteries

The best part is that we can use this mixture to build things. Imagine your house could store energy like a giant battery.

The researchers suggest that the foundation of your house, made from this special concrete, could store enough energy for a whole day.

This means your house can store energy from solar panels during the day and use it during the night. And, because this special concrete is still strong, it doesn’t change how the house is built or how much it costs.

There are even bigger plans for this technology. One day, roads could be made from this energy-storing concrete and charge electric cars as they drive. Right now, this is just an idea, but it could become a reality soon.

The Wonders of Concrete and Charcoal

Now, let’s look a bit at our heroes: concrete and charcoal. Concrete is one of the most common materials in the world. We use it to build houses, roads, bridges, and many other things.

Charcoal, on the other hand, is a very old material. It was used to write the Dead Sea Scrolls, ancient writings that are thousands of years old.

Charcoal is simply wood that has been burned in a way that turns it into black carbon. And it’s this black carbon that helps the concrete store energy.

Testing and Future Steps

Of course, before we start building houses and roads with this energy-storing concrete, more tests are needed.

The researchers have started small, with tiny supercapacitors about the size of a button battery. They have managed to store enough energy to light up a small light.

The next steps are to make bigger versions and see how much energy they can store. There is also a balance to find between how much energy the concrete can store and how strong it is.

Adding more charcoal means it can store more energy but also makes the concrete a bit weaker. This is something the researchers will need to figure out.

Looking Forward

The work these researchers are doing could change the way we think about energy. Instead of relying on big power stations, we could have energy storage built into our homes, roads, and cities.

This could help us use more energy from the sun, wind, and sea, and that’s good news for our planet. So, here’s to a future powered by concrete and charcoal!