What if a girl named Sally called her best friend John a “brick head”? Traditionally, Sally’s description of John would be very impolite. She just characterized him as a brick, dense, inflexible, and relatively mundane. However, a brick’s “dense” quality will not only change the energy storage for the next decade but also permanently transform the industry.
Throughout the past two years, Julio D’Arcy, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at Washington University found a new way to store energy by turning the red pigment of everyday bricks into plastic structures that harness electrical power. So how does this plastic develop? The answer is simple: chemical reaction.
D’Arcy’s work in developing supercapacitors—devices with porous metal plates connected to plastic that operates as electricity conductors—drove the professor to wonder if there were any everyday objects that could serve the same purpose. This question led him to pour acid vapor into the porous structure of the brick, causing a chemical change in the brick’s red pigment, otherwise known as iron oxide (rust).
D’Arcy explained that the chemical change created “a reactive form of iron that [made] chemical syntheses” within bricks possible, which motivated him to take his discovery one step further by filling the pores once again with a new substance: sulfur. This chemical jumble of meanings generated a fantastic find for D’Arcy—PEDOT, an electrically conductive plastic.
With a revolutionary discovery of how to produce PEDOT with cheap, everyday material, D’Arcy has given environmentalists the key to finding the world’s first low-cost renewable energy — energy storing bricks.” The bricks look pretty cool now.
Well, the future only looks brighter with this new development, as these bricks can replace expensive renewable energy solutions like solar panels. According to a New York Times article, the solar customers of California’s largest utility company “pay $133 a month,” indicating the global necessity for an inexpensive solar alternative.
Once developed to store an extensive quantity of electrical energy, these supercharged bricks will even have the power to reduce global warming.
Furthermore, through D’Arcy’s chemical endeavors, the iron oxide of bricks, a “ubiquitous waste product,” will become a valuable substance in many chemical experiments, preventing pollution and making construction materials more pragmatic in the long term. These vast improvements will then exponentially enhance the quality of our environment, minimizing the negative impact of global warming.
The many unanswered questions regarding how to maximize energy storage in bricks mean that the negative connotation behind “brick head” will remain. However, as the methods to store more significant quantities of electrical energy in bricks advance in future decades, the meaning of this term will drastically change to exemplify an entity that protects our world’s energy, climate, and natural resources. Through this profound discovery, the term “brick head.” will be reborn with a positive connotation as bricks transform and revolutionize our delicate yet beautiful world.