Smart Bricks

Researchers are developing "smart bricks" that will produce power, water and other resources thanks to microbial fuel cells. Credit: UWE Bristol

Researchers at the University of the West of England in Bristol, UK, are working on the integration of technologies in construction bricks to provide them with a variety of capabilities from the monitoring of the environment to processing water, air and waste.

The work is carried out as part of a European project, LIAR: Living Architecture, aiming at developing a modular bio-reactor wall. Bricks are modular bio-reactor containing microbial fuel cells and algae (MFC). Their mixing is programmed to perform a specific activities.

The goal is to create living buildings (living since they are made up by microbe and algae ecosystems) that work like chemical plants producing electricity, absorbing phosphate producing oxygen out of CO2 and light or treating grey water waste.

Additionally, a building made by MFCs can work like a massive parallel computer, an analog one, with computation carried out by microbes. This computer can sense its environment and react in specific ways. The "programming" is made by mixing different microbes. It is the result of mixing "grey" technologies, digital and mechanical, with "green" technologies, biotechnology and agriculture.

The researchers foresee a future where at least part of our homes, hospitals, offices, schools will contain these bio-walls. This, of course, will give a brand new approach to smart cities...

Author - Roberto Saracco

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