Researchers at the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed an invention that has the potential to revolutionize energy storage methods. The invention is a unique and cost-effective energy storage system that uses cement and carbon black. Both of these materials are abundant and have been around for centuries.
As explained in a paper published in the journal PNAS, cement and carbon black can be combined with water to produce a supercapacitor. Supercapacitors possess an exceptional ability to store large quantities of electric charge.
The brilliant minds behind this breakthrough include MIT professors Franz-Josef Ulm, Admir Masic, and Yang-Shao Horn.
The new MIT supercapacitor serves as a high-capacity alternative to conventional batteries. It’s expected to enhance the stability of energy networks that rely on renewable sources such as solar and wind power. Renewables are known for their intermittent supply.
The researchers have successfully demonstrated that this cement-based supercapacitor has the potential to be integrated into the foundations of houses. This transforms houses into ultrapowerful green energy batteries without compromising structural integrity or increasing costs.
The cheap cost of the supercapacitor is its biggest advantage. Conventional lithium-ion batteries are far too expensive to create a 100% renewable energy economy. A 2018 MIT study found that lithium-ion battery storage costs would rise to $1,612 per megawatt-hour if California was to be powered 100% by renewables.
To create the supercapacitor, the scientists introduced carbon black (which is highly conductive) into a blend of cement and water. As this mixture solidified, the water reacted with the cement. This resulted in the formation of wire-like structures within the solidified cement that are highly conductive and occupied by the carbon.
This innovative technology has the potential to greatly contribute to the global transition to renewable energy.
According to Brighter Side News, a specialized concrete block with a volume of 45 cubic meters has the ability to store around 10 kilowatt-hours of energy. This amount is equivalent to the average daily electricity consumption of a household.
Additionally, these supercapacitors have the advantage of being charged and discharged much faster compared to traditional batteries.
However, the researchers noticed a tradeoff between the storage capacity of the supercapacitor and its structural strength. Higher concentrations of carbon black result in greater energy storage but slightly weaken the material’s structural integrity. This compromise is acceptable in applications where maximum structural strength is not crucial.
The supercapacitor’s diverse applications
The supercapacitors don’t just transform houses into green energy batteries. They transform roadways into batteries as well.
The supercapacitors can be embedded into city streets. Once embedded, they can wirelessly transfer stored energy to electric vehicles traveling on the road.
The researchers discovered that they could customize the supercapacitor for various applications by making adjustments to the mixture. For structural elements like building foundations, the optimum results are achieved when the carbon black content is around 10 percent.
Moreover, the supercapacitor can be used for purposes beyond energy storage. It can also serve as a heating system when electricity is applied.