Of all things to enter the realm of "smart" technology, bricks were not thought to be one. Scientists and breakthrough research, though, say differently.
At the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), they are busy creating the bricks that will help turn buildings into "large-scale living organisms." They contain microbial fuel cells and are capable of recycling wastewater, generating electricity and producing oxygen.
"Microbial fuel cells are energy transducers that exploit the metabolic activity of the constituent microbes to break down organic waste and generate electricity," says Ioannis Ieropoulos, professor at UWE Bristol's Robotics Laboratory. "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 microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are embedded in the bricks and can sense the environment inside and outside the building. The MFCs are programmed to handle different situations, including waste water, chemical waste, carbon dioxide, and so on, and turn it into useful byproduct like clean water and oxygen.
"The technologies we are developing aim to transform the places where we live and work enabling us to co-live with the building," says Andrew Adamatzky, the professor leading the UWE Bristol team. "Each smart brick is an electrical analogous computer. A building made of such bricks will be a massive-parallel computing processor."
This technology is really limitless and likely the way we are supposed to be living; surrounded by life, itself, rather than hard stone and metal. The bricks are currently one part of Living Architecture (LIAR), an ongoing project by institutions from across the UK and Europe to enhance the way we live and build.