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‘Smart’ cement mixtures may turn buildings into batteries

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World Cement,

Lancaster University researchers have created a new smart cement mixture, which can store electrical energy and monitor its own structural health.

Using potassium-geopolymetric (KGP), the researchers’ composites rely on the diffusion of potassium ions within the structure, to store electrical energy and sense mechanical stresses. Fully optimised, KGP mixtures can store and discharge between 200 and 500 W/m2.

Houses could be built with a KGP exterior or partition walls and connected to a power source, such as solar panels. This could store power during daylight hours, including when the house is empty, and discharge it in the evening, when the occupiers are home and more power is needed. It would also be possible for existing buildings to have KGP panels retrofitted. Street lighting could be taken off-grid, holding enough renewable energy to power itself through the evening, where a typical streetlamp currently uses 700 W every night. Multiple KGP structures could store excess energy, to be released to smooth demand on energy grids.

In addition, KGP mixtures are self-sensing, meaning that mechanical stresses caused by cracks, for example, alter the mechanism of the ion. An improvement on current routine visual tests, the structural health of buildings could thus be monitored automatically, without the need for additional sensors.

“We have shown for the first time that KGP cement mixtures can be used to store and deliver electrical energy, without the need for expensive or hazardous additives,” said Professor Mohamed Saafi of Lancaster University’s Engineering Department. “These cost-effective mixtures could be used as integral parts of buildings and other infrastructure, as a cheap way to store and deliver renewable energy, powering street lighting, traffic lights, and electric vehicle charging points.”

The researchers continue their work, undertaking in-depth studies to optimise KGP performance.

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UK cement news Cement news 2018