So we have had smart cities and smart homes, how about smart bricks? A UK-based consortium has created a prototype of an intelligent brick that it claims could revolutionise housing and replace fossil fuels. Its bricks can not only make electricity and clean water, but can also keep you informed and offset the environmental impact?
The prototype has been created by a group called Active Living Infrastructure: Controlled Environment (ALICE) research consortium
Funded by UK Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020 and the EU’s Innovation Awards, the consortium comprises Newcastle University, the University of the West of England and Translating Nature.
The base of the prototype is a wall of “living bricks” which can form entire walls and structures. These living bricks contain microbes that use liquid waste to generate energy, which can then be turned into electricity and clean water.
Professor Rachel Armstrong, Coordinator on the ALICE project from Newcastle University said: “ALICE has the potential to permanently wean humanity off fossil-fuels.
“This project is part of a range of prototypes that are redesigning our buildings and reshaping the future of architecture into a two-way conversation with nature; using microbes is our way of counteracting the impacts of our increasingly hostile planetary systems. I hope this research leads to a more sustainable future for all.”
ALICE uses biosensors that record data produced by the microbial electrons; ALICE then fuses biological and digital technologies to converse with the microbes and see how happy they are and tell us whether they need to be fed or warmed to generate more bioelectricity.
Self-powered by the microbial fuel cells inside each brick, ALICE can not only be used as a source of household energy but can also transform domestic liquid wastes into clean water fit for reuse.
A digital overlay of the information gathered from ALICE’s conversations with the microbial life in each brick, is then displayed back to the household using Augmented Reality.
Professor Dame Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UKRI, said: “This is a really revolutionary project which could change our residential environment and have a significant impact on how we power our homes in the future. EPSRC is proud to have funded the early investments that led to this work.
“The results published today are a great example of a collaborative effort in tackling a key issue of the 21st century and should be celebrated as both an achievement for the future of sustainable living and an accomplishment of the science intrinsic to engineering biology.”