Building materials could make on-demand power from renewables affordable worldwide.
Tesla’s Powerwall, a boxy, wall-mounted, lithium-ion battery, can power your home for half a day or so. But what if your home was the battery?
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have come up with a new way to store electricity in cement, using cheap and abundant materials. If scaled up, the cement could hold enough energy in a home’s concrete foundation to fulfill its daily power needs. Scaled up further, electrified roadways could power electric cars as they drive. And if scientists can find a way to do this all cheaply the advance might offer a nearly limitless capacity for storing energy from intermittent renewable sources, such as solar and wind.
So far, the cement devices are small, only big enough to power a few LED lightbulbs. But efforts are already underway to scale them up into a bulk energy storage solution, reports Science.
If MIT's special cement was used to make a 45-cubic-meter volume of concrete - roughly the amount used in the foundation of a standard home - it could store 10 kilowatt-hours of energy, enough to power an average household for a day, the team reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
By offering a cheaper alternative to more expensive batteries, electrified cement could also make storing renewable power more affordable for developing countries, says Admir Masic, a chemist at MIT and a co-author of a study. “This puts us into a new space for energy storage at prices accessible anywhere in the world.”