Researchers have found a viable way to use cement in house foundations and roads to power your home or electric vehicles (EVs).
A team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Wyss Institute in the US unveiled the design on Monday, claiming that supercapacitors made of this material, an alternative to batteries, have “great potential” in assisting in the world’s transition to clean energy.
“The material is fascinating because you have the most-used man-made material in the world, cement, that is combined with carbon black, which is a well-known historical material. The Dead Sea Scrolls were written with it,” said MIT Professor Admir Masic, who was involved in the research.
“You have these at least two-millennia-old materials that when you combine them in a specific manner you come up with a conductive nanocomposite, and that’s when things get really interesting,” Masic revealed.
The concrete mix of cement and carbon black only requires water. This makes it a low-cost alternative to other energy storage systems being developed in the hopes to allow energy networks to remain stable during fluctuations in renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and tidal power.
Cement mix can store energy
As an example, the MIT researchers who developed the system say that their supercapacitor could eventually be incorporated into the concrete foundation of a house. It could store a full day’s worth of energy while adding little to no additional costs in the development of the foundation. The needed structural strength would continue to be available.
Researchers also envision a concrete roadway that could provide contactless recharging for electric cars as they travel over that road.
“There is a huge need for big energy storage,” said MIT Professor Franz-Josef Ulm.
The principal sources of emissions-free energy, wind, solar, and tidal power all produce their output at variable times that often do not correspond to the peaks in electricity usage, so ways of storing that power are essential.
Furthermore, existing batteries are too expensive and mostly rely on materials such as lithium, whose supply is limited. Hence, more affordable alternatives are needed. “That’s where our technology is extremely promising because cement is ubiquitous,” Ulm says.
Early applications will likely be in isolated homes or buildings equipped with solar panels that do not have access to grid power. The concrete mixture can also be adjusted to serve other uses, the scientists noted, such as heating systems.
A paper detailing the research, titled “Cement supercapacitors as a scalable energy storage solution,” was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.