We are now used to photo voltaic roof tiles and other ways of using our building materials to help fuel our homes or assist with energy provision.
Now the next evolution of building materials has arrived. A new smart brick is being developed which will contain a microbial fuel cell (MFC), capable of extracting resources from its surrounding, both inside and outside the building.
These bioreactor walls will be capable of generating electricity, recycling waste water, controlling the internal temperature of the building, and releasing oxygen and substances which can be used as fertilizers.
It is expected that they will also reclaim scarce resources like phosphorus from the air, and create new detergents.
Each MFC will contain a variety of micro-organisms and algae, each with its own task which it has been programmed to do – purify water, generate electricity, extract carbon-dioxide etc.
The University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol is working with Newcastle University to combine their research under the European Living Architecture Scheme (LIAR). Rachel Armstrong, professor of experimental architecture at Newcastle University said “The LIAR project is incredibly exciting – it brings together living architecture, computing and engineering to find a new way to tackle global issues, like sustainability”.
This research has stemmed from initial investigations regarding recycling waste products to generate electricity – UWE have already been able to demonstrate that a mobile phone can be charged from urine!