The team, led by King's College London, used gelled water inside the brick and added a 3D printed interior based upon a Schwarz D minimum surface structure. This creates thermogalvanic bricks are stronger than household bricks but allow the electrochemistry to occur and also serve to improve insulation. The compounds inside are not consumed, do not run out and can never be overcharged. A USB plug provides direct access to the power.
“The idea is that these bricks could be 3D printed from recycled plastic, and be used to quickly and easily make something like a refugee shelter. By the simple act of keeping the occupants warmer or cooler than their surroundings, electricity will be produced, enough to provide some night time lighting, and recharge a mobile phone," said Dr Leigh Aldous, Senior Lecturer from the Department of Chemistry at King’s. “Crucially, they do not require maintenance, recharging or refilling. Unlike batteries, they store no energy themselves, which also removes risk of fire and transport restrictions.”
The team - including scientists from Arizona State University and UNSW Sydney, as part of a PLuS Alliance partnership - believe that this new device could help provide access to affordable and sustainable energy, independent of an electrical grid. The team has now filed a provisional patent for the bricks.