Engineers from South Korea have invented a cement-based composite that allows structures to generate and store electricity by harnessing energy from sources like footsteps, wind, and rain.
The mechanical and civil engineering researchers, from Incheon National University, Kyung Hee University, and Korea University, developed a cement-based conductive composite (CBC) with carbon fibres that can also act as a triboelectric nanogenerator (TENG).
Tests showed that a 1% volume of conductive carbon fibres in a cement mixture was enough to give the cement the desired electrical properties without compromising structural performance, and the current generated was far lower than the maximum allowable level for the human body.
They designed a lab-scale structure and a CBC-based capacitor using the developed material to test its energy harvesting and storage capabilities.
The inventors believe by turning structures into power sources, the cement will help to reduce the built environment’s carbon footprint.
Seung-Jung Lee, a professor in Incheon National University’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, said: “We wanted to develop a structural energy material that could be used to build net-zero energy structures that use and produce their own electricity.
“Since cement is an indispensable construction material, we decided to use it with conductive fillers as the core conductive element for our CBC-TENG system.”
The results of their research were published this month in the journal Nano Energy.
Apart from energy storage and harvesting, the material could also be used to design self-sensing systems that monitor the structural health and predict the remaining service life of concrete structures without any external power.
Professor Lee added: “Our ultimate goal was to develop materials that made the lives of people better and did not need any extra energy to save the planet. And we expect that the findings from this study can be used to expand the applicability of CBC as an all-in-one energy material for net-zero energy structures.”
Image credit: ultramansk/Shutterstock
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