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Solar-Powered Homes Could Be Built on Foundations of Energy-Storing Concrete

A groundbreaking development in the field of renewable energy could revolutionize the way we store and utilize electricity in our homes. Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered that mixing cement with charcoal powder can create a supercapacitor-like material that can store a full day’s worth of energy in the concrete foundation of a house.

Supercapacitors are an alternative to batteries, capable of discharging energy much faster. By incorporating this technology into buildings and wind turbines, it opens up various possibilities for energy storage and utilization. Additionally, when combined with renewable energy sources, such as solar power, it could potentially enable concrete road foundations to wirelessly recharge electric vehicles as they drive.

The advantage of this cement and charcoal composite material is its accessibility and availability. According to Franz-Josef Ulm, one of the researchers at MIT, the materials required for this technology are abundant worldwide, eliminating the restrictions associated with batteries.

The researchers demonstrated the functionality of the material by creating thin slabs, just 1 centimeter wide and 1 millimeter thick, which were then separated and transformed into supercapacitors using an insulating layer. Connecting three of these supercapacitors generated the energy equivalent of a 3-volt battery, capable of powering a small LED.

The next step for the researchers is to develop 12-volt supercapacitors that offer more charging power for larger devices. Their calculations show that a concrete block the size of a 3.5-meter cube could store up to 10 kilowatt-hours of energy, which is approximately one-third of the average daily household electricity consumption in the US and 1.25 times the average consumption in the UK.

Furthermore, the material displayed remarkable durability, maintaining its charging and discharging capabilities even after 10,000 cycles. This means that it could potentially provide energy storage for a solar-powered home for over 27 years.

However, there are engineering challenges associated with implementing this technology. Traditional concrete slabs would need to be replaced with a “concrete plywood” made of the supercapacitor material. Additionally, keeping the supercapacitor consistently wet with a conductive salt solution throughout the lifetime of a building or road could pose difficulties.

Despite these challenges, the MIT team remains optimistic about the potential of this technology. By leveraging ancient and widely available materials, they have created a relatively simple blueprint for a low-cost supercapacitor, opening up opportunities for experimentation and widespread adoption.

Admir Masic, another scientist from MIT, highlights the significant aspect of this technology, stating that it combines two historical and ancient materials that have been known for millennia.

In conclusion, the development of energy-storing concrete foundations presents an exciting prospect for solar-powered homes and renewable energy utilization. This innovative approach has the potential to revolutionize our energy storage systems and contribute to a more sustainable future.

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