Discussing current issues in engineering
Imagine powering up your laptop or phone by simply connecting them to the brick walls of your house.
Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri are working to do just that with the successful transformation of every-day red bricks into energy storage devices currently capable of powering LED lights.
Julio M. D’Arcy, assistant professor of chemistry and fellow chemistry department scientists recently published their research highlighting the development of “smart bricks”.
Using the strong porous structure naturally found in bricks, D’Arcy and colleagues pumped gases through these pores, which reacted with the brick’s chemical components, creating a coating called PEDOT. The coating comprised of plastic nanofibers embedded inside the brick acts as a sponge capable of storing and conducting electricity within the brick.
Considering bricks already occupy large amounts of space in the form of walls and buildings, this common building material could be utilized as an additional means to store electricity. For example, when used as electricity storage for solar panels, D’Arcy estimates that 50 smart bricks could power LED lighting for up to five hours from stored electricity.
However, there are some limitations with the initial development of smart brick technology. Similar to traditional batteries, the bricks can store large amounts of energy. But batteries can hold onto the charge of electricity and continually deliver it over long periods of time, while the initial research shows that smart bricks can only sustain the stored electricity for short periods of time.
But with further research and development of smart brick capabilities, there is significant potential for someday optimizing the use of everyday brick walls for powering your everyday devices.
Virginia Tech chemical engineering researchers have developed a coating that has proven to kill 99.9% of the COVID-19 virus on many common-use surfaces. William Ducker and other Virginia Tech scientists in collaboration with researchers from the University of Hong Kong’s School of Public Health tested the coating on everyday items including doorknobs, credit card readers used at cashier check-outs, and shopping cart handles. They found that within one hour of applying the coating, the virus was undetectable.
With research indicating COVID-19 can stay viable on some surfaces for up to three days, this new coating has promising potential for fighting the spread of the virus on surfaces.
The coating is made of cuprous oxide, a form of copper, and polyurethane. Ducker and colleagues found that with two coats of painting on a surface, the coating can retain its potency of killing the virus for months. Even after immersing a coated surface in water for 13 days, it continued to kill new exposures to the virus. So ultimately, once the coating is on a surface, it does not require continuous re-coating or any re-sanitizing.
Ducker hopes the coating, he calls “Safety Coat,” can be used by industries and applied to surfaces in many public spaces including hospitals, classrooms, and public transit. In the meantime, the researchers are continuing further tests of the coating’s effectiveness to reduce the one-hour activation time to a matter of minutes.
To read the complete published research along with images of the coating in use, see the full article in the American Chemical Society.
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