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Concrete is the world’s most consumed material after water. Because it already surrounds us in the built environment, researchers have been exploring the idea of using concrete to store electricity—essentially turning buildings into giant batteries. The idea has been gaining ground as we have come to increasingly rely on renewable energy from the wind and sun: rechargeable batteries are necessary when the breeze dies down or darkness falls, but ironically, they are often made of toxic substances that are far from environmentally friendly.

Experimental concrete batteries have only managed to hold a fraction of what a traditional battery does. But one team now reports in Buildings that it has developed a rechargeable prototype that could represent a more than 900 percent increase in stored charge, compared with earlier attempts.

A live-in concrete battery might sound unlikely. Still, “you can make a battery out of a potato,” notes Aimee Byrne, a lecturer in structural engineering at Technological University Dublin, who was not involved in the new study. In a future where sustainability is key, she likes the idea of buildings that avoid waste by providing shelter and powering electronics.

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