Another Energy Source in the Wall: Bricks as Energy Storage with Julio D'Arcy


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Oct 17 2020 45 mins   8

Ready to explore energy sources and supercapacitor applications you can build with? The time is now for energy storage advances and this podcast explores an exciting structural possibility.

To learn more about this advancement in energy, listen and hear

  • How Julio D'Arcy's lab was able to transform a brick ingredient, hematite, into an energy-storing material,
  • What the polymer nanofiber they use to coat the bricks is capable of, and
  • What energy storing device applications they can use these bricks for now and how they hope to improve the energy density for future applications.

Julio D'Arcy is an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis. He brings listeners along in the search for supercapacitors as energy storage system. He discovered that rust—which is iron corrosion—is a fascinating material, abundant in both nature and in synthetic conditions like construction.

He started working with rust in his lab, demonstrating how they could change its properties at a chemical level and make it serve as an oxidant of chemical energy, which is a means to store energy. Under careful syntheses, they turned bricks blue and changed their structure and coated them with special nanofibers. These nanofibers move like a sponge throughout all the pores, covering every surface, yet allowing the fusion of gases and ions through the still-open pores.

He explains how these nanofibers are semiconductors made from PEDOT, which is a conducting polymer. This plastic can conduct electricity, store energy, and grow from the hematite in the bricks. The vision for these bricks is to eventually produce supercapacitors to replace batteries and be used as a dependable load-bearing energy source. The trick, he says, is to make sure the structure and chemical properties don't change over time and this has nanofiber alignment implications.

He tells listeners about their work with magnetic nanofibers toward that end. He also talks about the limits from the much lower energy density these bricks have than batteries and how they are working on that limitation. This progresses into an exciting conversation about possible solutions and ways this technology can only improve.

He adds that while they are about five years from load-bearing commercial applications, current uses include smaller-scale applications like power emergency lighting in the house or powering small electronics embedded in the house. This polymer has exciting potential for other applications like its ability to sense changes in PH, humidity, and temperature: the sensor capability for at-home use is boundless.

For more, see his lab's website: sites.wustl.edu/darcylab/.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK