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Electrified Cement: Turning Roads and Houses into Batteries

Building materials could make on-demand power from renewables affordable worldwide.

Artist's impression of electrified roads
Artist's impression of electrified roads | N. Chanut et al. | Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

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.”

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