Admitted, it sounds a bit like science fiction. The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) created energy generating and wastewater recycling bricks which are incorporated in housing or public buildings. The smart living bricks are compatible with each other. According to the scientists, it is possible to create bioreactor walls with them. A further feature for green buildings.
Living bricks generate electricity from sunlight
Within the framework of the pan-European ‘Living Architecture’ (LIAR) project led by Newcastle University, the project aims to tackle global sustainability issues with expertise from the fields of living architecture, engineering and computing.
“The best way to describe what we’re trying to create is a ‘biomechanical cow’s stomach’,” said Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, UK, who is co-ordinating the project. “It contains different chambers, each processing organic waste for a different, but overall related, purpose – like a digestive system for your home or your office.
Bio-reactors filled with microbial cells and algae are used to produce the smart living bricks
Containing microbial fuel cells (MFCs), each block is filled with programmable synthetic microorganisms. MFCs are bio-electrochemical systems and can be regarded as a clean and efficient method of energy production in mild conditions, 20 °C to 40 °C and a pH of around 7. With the help of interactions between in nature found bacteria and mimicking bacterial, it is possible to drive a current. The electrons can be transferred via chemicals from the bacteria in the cell to the anode with mediated MFCs. It is possible to transfer electrons directly to the anode with unmediated MFCs. A variety of chosen microorganisms are able to clean water, reclaim phosphate, generate electricity and produce new detergents.
Living bricks transform buildings into large-scale living organism that addresses environmental and energy needs of the occupants
Furthermore, the chosen microorganisms are able to clean water, reclaim phosphate and produce new detergents. Allegedly, the smart living bricks are even able to monitor and modify air in the building and recognize occupants.
Professor Andrew Adamatzky, LIAR Project Director for UWE Bristol, is leading the UWE Bristol team, said, “The technologies we are developing aim to transform the places where we live and work enabling us co-live with the building.” He adds, “Each smart brick is an electrical analogous computer. A building made of such bricks will be a massive-parallel computing processor.”
Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol Bioenergy Centre (BBiC), at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol, said, “Microbial Fuel Cells are energy transducers that exploit the metabolic activity of the constituent microbes to break down organic waste and generate electricity. This is a novel application for MFC modules to be made into actuating building blocks as part of wall structures. This will allow us to explore the possibility of treating household waste, generating useful levels of electricity, and have ‘active programmable’ walls within our living environments.”
The EUR3.2m LIAR (Living Architecture) scheme is co-ordinated by Newcastle University. In addition to scientists from the University of the West of England, the team includes experts from Trento, the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group and EXPLORA.