Researchers from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have created the first rechargeable cement battery. One day, the work could lead to large concrete buildings that store and deliver energy like giant municipal batteries.
The cement batteries have an iron-coated carbon fiber mesh that acts as the anode layer on top of a conductive cement-based mixture sandwiched by a nickel-coated carbon-fiber mesh cathode layer. The team added a small amount of short, electroplated carbon fibers to the cement mix to make it conductive.
For many years, researchers have pushed for more sustainable building materials, but the Chalmers group started working on futuristic building materials several years ago.
Research of concrete batteries is rare. The few previous efforts to make cement-based batteries weren’t rechargeable, and the output was meager.
The batteries from Chalmers have a lower average energy density than commercial batteries, 7 watt-hours per square meter (or 0.8 watt-hours per liter). However, the researchers believe their battery still outperforms previous concepts by more than 10 times.
The applications are many, including powering LEDs, providing 4G connectivity in remote areas, and even supporting infrastructure monitoring systems. For example, they could use solar panels to power sensors used to detect cracking or corrosion.
The ability to help monitor infrastructure seems particularly timely as a massive crack in the Interstate 40 bridge linking Arkansas and Tennessee shut down the major thoroughfare. Luckily, a routine inspection caught the “significant fracture,” but concrete batteries could one-day power sensors on parts of the bridge that are crucial for its integrity.
The proof of concept was still relatively small. The sample size was smaller than the multimeter, so it will take a bit of scale to get it to a 20-story building.
When it comes to alternative energy, what is one of the biggest arguments? Where are you going to store peak time power to be used during downtimes? The answer could be as simple as a massive battery building created to power our concrete jungles.
The Swedish Energy Agency funded the research, and the findings were published in the scientific journal Buildings.
Credit: Thomas Insights