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MIT, Japanese company to research some concrete steps for storing renewable energy, de-icing roads and sidewalks

MIT News reports on a five-year deal between the MIT Electron-conductive Cement-based Materials Hub and the Aizawa Concrete Corp. to research ways to use concrete in ways you really wouldn't think it could be: To replace lithium batteries to store energy created by wind and solar power and to create systems that could de-ice frozen roads and sidewalks.

The project builds on work by MIT researchers who discovered that plain old concrete "doped" with carbon black - which formed the ink the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in - could be used to store and then deliver electricity. It turns out the carbon black, when mixed with the concrete, "self assembles" into conductive wire-like structures that basically create a capacitor - which, like a battery, can hold an electrical charge.

One possible use: Building a house foundation out of the material, which could store electricity generated during the day by solar panels on the roof. Current attempts to store this energy with lithium batteries are hampered by the fact that lithium is relatively scarce, while concrete and carbon black are widely available and cheap.

Another: using carbon-black enhanced concrete to build roads and sidewalks. Connect them to a power source and they could heat up enough in the winter to melt ice.

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to the Dead Sea Scrolls. It's just a pigment, basically soot. It's used in a lot of stuff.

Voting closed 12

materials do have ancient uses.

I'm concerned about stepping on this new pavement with bare wet feet and being shocked.

Voting closed 7

I believe many municipalities require lamp black to be added to concrete sidewalks by law to reduce glare (with the tradeoff that they probably get hotter in the summer, which might be something to consider as the climate changes and we worry more about heat islands).

Voting closed 6

The total amount of energy is mind-blowing. It'll be years (decades?) before we finally phase out the oil, gas, and coal powering our electricity needs for motor vehicles, heating and cooling, and buildings.

Now we're looking for frivolous uses? Good grief.

Voting closed 6

cold fusion is just around the corner.

Voting closed 4

How about de-swilling the sidewalks when all the ice and snow are melted?

Voting closed 3