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New Concrete Serves as Energy Storage

Researchers at Lancaster University (UK) are developing concrete that stores energy in an attempt to offset the demand for renewable energy.

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Early in 2018, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) found that the manufacture of cement makes up an astounding 6% of all carbon emissions – second only to the steel industry. Faced by this immense sector, researchers have focused on developing ways to decrease the industry’s impact on the environment.

A new study seems set to refresh concrete’s image, with the promise of concrete that can store energy. This new concrete, it is argued, can store energy that is produced by renewable sources like solar energy; stored energy will then activate when the energy supply dwindles and relieve pressure on renewable energy sources.

Researchers at Lancaster University have infused concrete with charged particles or ‘ions’. Energy is stored inside the concrete when potassium ions travel through the concrete structure and accumulate on one side; this means the concrete ‘traps’ the energy and – theoretically, at least – will release it when it is needed, like a battery.

Renewable energy sources like wind energy are unstable and so storage is an important consideration. “The idea is to store electricity in the structure itself and release it at times of peak demand,” says Mohamed Saafi, from Lancaster University’s engineering department.

The Daily Mail’s Joe Pinkstone suggests that the energy produced in excess during the summer months can be stored, and in winter when the demand rises, this excess may be discharged and utilised.  

“We have a lot of buildings,” Saafi adds. “If you could convert them into batteries it would pretty much solve a lot of our energy problems.”

Unlike batteries, which store energy by means of an electrolyte, energy-storing concrete works by trapping said energy using two conductors (materials that allow electricity to flow through) and an insulator (a material through which electricity flows with difficulty); this type of storage is called a ‘capacitor’. If used widely enough, Saafi thinks concrete capacitors can afford more space to store energy than could batteries. 

With renewable energy growing more prominent among sources like coal- and nuclear-powered plants, it is heartening to know that the cement industry – a known contributor to climate change – is exploring such alternatives. For more details, visit: https://dailym.ai/2AQae1M.

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