UWE academics working on smart ‘Living Bricks’

What if the bricks in your house could absorb sunlight, air and wastewater to generate electricity?
19th October 2016

Living Bricks is a project that could transform the way we live. Imagine if the very bricks in your walls could use the natural resources around them to generate electricity – well this is very rapidly becoming a reality.

“These are essentially standard bricks integrated with our Microbial Fuel Cell technology, which produces electricity as a direct result of cleaning/treating wastewater.”

 

The geniuses at UWE have created ‘smart bricks’ as part of the Living Architecture project, which is being funded by the EU H2020 programme. We caught up with Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, one of the academics working on the project, to explain a little more about the idea. He explains: “These are essentially standard bricks integrated with our Microbial Fuel Cell (MFC) technology, which produces electricity as a direct result of cleaning/treating wastewater.”

img_20160914_160105-1Living bricks will fundamentally give buildings their own ‘digestive system’, transforming the way we generate our energy. The bricks will be able to extract energy from sunlight, air and wastewater to turn into electricity.

The bricks will each contain a microbial fuel cell, which is filled with programmable synthetic microorganisms that can be robotically activated. This means a variety of microorganisms can be contained in one block, which can respond to their surroundings through a series of digitally coordinated mechanisms.

Making the most of our walls

The aim is to build self-sufficient infrastructure; making this a conspicuous step forward in the drive for widespread use of sustainable energy.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos elaborates, “Urbanisation is happening at a very fast pace and unless we come up with solutions in how to deal with energy generation, wastewater treatment as well as waste disposal, as part of a circular economy, then we will quickly run out of resources and space.”

“Having adaptive structures that respond to environmental conditions… to effectively clean the wastewater produced and generate electricity is our vision”

 

img_20161006_105044It’s no secret that non-renewable energy resources are scarce, which makes the development of renewable sources all the more valuable. Living Bricks provide a solution to a very serious problem, and the team want this to be available to all.

“Having adaptive structures that respond to environmental conditions such as light and temperature, through the living microbes within, in order to effectively clean the wastewater produced and generate electricity is a vision of our research programme.”

The heart of the brick

The idea itself evolved from a collective of different disciplines, such as architecture, design, robotics and cybernetics, coming together to create the innovative project.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos says how great it is to work in Bristol, “this is a wonderful opportunity to implement our MFC technology – that we have been developing for the last 15 years – in the context of architecture. This gives the MFCs a whole new dimension and direction into the future, by gaining new knowledge in materials, design topology, experimental architecture and social perception.”

Get stuck in

If the sound of this project takes your fancy, you can be involved with it!

“This particular project on living MFC bricks is a 3-year programme funded by the European Commission, and the consortium is open to people who may want to get involved, also as part of the wider community.”

To find out more or to get in touch, visit Living Architecture’s website.