97: A Foundational Technology – Cement Batteries

Matt and Sean talk about being blockheads and concrete battery storage.

Watch the Undecided with Matt Ferrell episode, “Turning Buildings into Batteries? Concrete Battery Storage Explained”: https://youtu.be/OJxU3fKMdaw

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Hey, everybody welcome to the still to be determined podcast this is of course the podcast that follows up on topics from the Youtube channel undecided with Matt ferrell I’m sean ferrell I’m his older brother his being Matt not the channel. Ah, Matt’s older brother I’m a writer and I’ll be asking him the questions Matt say hello. How are you doing today. I’m okay I Believe at this point that.
Hello, Pretty good. How about you.
My video is back up on the channel I know that people may have enjoyed not seeing me last week but I think I’m back now we’re gonna make that call depending on how things look I’m bandaid wearing but otherwise I’m okay for anybody who’s curious. The issue with my face other than its normal hideousness was that I had a spot of Basal cell carcinoma and had a mose procedure done which is a targeted surgery to remove the the cancerous portion and then a skin graft to fill that little hole. And it’s on the side of my nose. It is not huge, but the overall effect of having what was effectively a golf ball sized bandage last week would have made for a distracting video I’m now down I’m now down to a Band -aid so
Yeah, yes, it would have been very distracting.
Yeah, baby steps.
Ah, tip of the hat to the to the doctors at Sloan kettering who did the procedure tip of the hat to science in general for figuring out hey we can very carefully do this and remove cancer from your body so everything went well and hopefully. My nose will be even more handsome than it was when they started Today. We’re not going to be talking about my nose. We’re going to be talking about. Matthew’s most recent episode which was titled turning buildings into batteries question mark.
Concrete battery storage explained this was from November Thirtieth Twenty Twenty one and it revolved around a technology that sounds fanciful. It’s the idea of building batteries using concrete.
It does yes.
So that you could effectively pour a concrete slab and it could hold a charge and release that charge over time and the dream of the people pushing this this technology would be. You know you you farcically in your. Video make reference to this skyscraper. It could be the world’s largest Battery. You didn’t mean that Seriously yeah I think yeah from the the Nitty gritty no pun intended.
Yeah, new, no no, no, it’s like it’s 1 of those in theory if you did this. It would be the world’s biggest battery. But obviously you’re not going to do that.
The Nitty gritty of the the video. It seems like the people who are pushing. This technology are looking for small case very targeted use where it would be. Sidewalks that might have led light strips or you’d have bridges that could have technology measuring stress on the bridge that are powered by a battery which is effectively fed by maybe a solar panel or something that’s built onto the bridge. So that you would end up having best case scenario would be. This is a low energy storage option that would be so in the background nobody is talking about this being you’re going to have a flashlight that’s made out of concrete. This is not being pushed as.
Um, correct right? These these.
Ah, replacement for more direct energy use.
Yeah, the the researchers that do this these kind of studies. They’re not pushing the technology for a specific thing. They it’s research not for the sake of research but they’re researching this to see if there’s something there and if it can be done and and done in in a effective effective way Efficient Way. Um. And their suggestions are more realistic. It’s like they were talking about like the lamp post like you could have a little solar panel on the top of a lamp post that charges the batter during the day and it’s enough power in the post itself to supply power overnight. It’s like that’s pretty straightforward seems Simple. It’s not like you’re going to be putting this into your home actual home. And saying I don’t need to testle powerwall because my walls are doing that we would be so far away from that and it may never actually be able to be done that way because this is so low power compared to something like Lithium ion. Really, it seems like smart Technologies Smart Cities Sensors. You know, early warning systems for concrete failure in buildings and stuff like that is where this could actually be very useful but not for a mass storage system.
Yeah, and it wouldn’t even be something that would be a backup power source for some major event. You know the power goes out due to a storm or earthquake and your building is perfectly fine because you have these. The the concrete battery of your foundation is now powering your your building. It’s a matter it seems to me a matter of how much power could be discharged at a this is effectively a chemical reaction. It’s a chemical battery is just a.
Yes, is a chemical battery.
Different version of the chemical state than what we’re accustomed To. We’re accustomed to metal and acid and this is not a metal and an acid So. It’s going to be I got a kick out of the video where it said. In the laboratory. The scientists were able to get an led light to glow for many hours and the light is literally a tiny little little like if you turned off all the lights in that room that light would do nothing for you other than the light you know where that light is so in.
Yeah, yeah, pink.
No yes, exactly yes.
In a case where you’re looking for what would this be used for I think that I kept going back to like for emergency lighting for a strip of lights that go along a sidewalk in a otherwise very dark place. Just let you know where the sidewalk is. That kind of use but not like oh good news. The power grid went down but your solar powers and your foundation are going to be enough to store your energy for the foreseeable future.
Correct. Yeah, like emergency lighting or lamp posts or like I said smart sensors for a city. It’s like that kind of stuff is where this seems like it’s most likely if it succeeds where we would end up going but it’s it’s 1 of those This is so far from that. And I even mentioned this at the end of the video that this is lab scale. They’ve only done limited testing. It’s lab scale and they still have more testing to do beyond this and then if they improve it beyond that it still then has to get commercialized so it’s like it’s 1 of those This is very early days but I thought it was a really interesting. Want to call it a breakthrough in the research necessarily but it’s like it’s a really interesting milestone in looking at concrete batteries or cement batteries as a potential path that is kind of like a oh raise an eyebrow.. There might be something there keep an eye on that for the future.
It spurned some interesting comments in the comments on the video that if I put these together effectively a few of the viewers are basically playing my role in creating this. Asking very good questions and doing it in a way that really demonstrates some some smart thinking I wanted to start with this 1 from Victor J who wrote here are some possible problems that popped him up in my head and I just want to run some of these by you and. If You don’t know because of the technical aspects of this that are beyond you. Yeah, obviously we just jump past it but some questions include how much does it complicate the cement pouring practice that’s currently in use.
That’s the thing where like I have no clue and main main reason is this is being done in a lab in a very controlled setting and sometimes when the researchers are doing this kind of study. They’re not necessarily thinking 10 steps down the road of now how are we going to actually make this. It’s more of a. Academic exercise at this point So I have no clue how it would affect the actual pouring exercise down the road.
There results the question of how do the anodes cathodes and additional add-ins to the cement affect the structural integrity of the cement.
From what I found it doesn’t but again, that’s from what I found in the research paper and everything like that. So It’s like in my researcher who helped me put this together. It’s like we didn’t necessarily find anything specific about the integrity of this concrete but it looks like it doesn’t but. That’s a question I’d want to ask too and find out but that’s the kind of stuff that would come in future iterations and and future tests.
And then the last 2 questions I think are very interesting and I can’t imagine that there’s been any research in this vein yet. But the question of what happens during a critical failure of 1 of these batteries. Do you have a situation where. The concrete effectively could maybe degrade and an accelerated speed or is there the potential for something like the leaching of a hazardous chemical or something coming out of it that would be a problem and the other question.
Yeah, yeah.
Is if you have something it is effectively holding a charge like this and discharging What would that do to bluetooth and wi-fi signals in the immediateor area which is a great question. Would you affect? Yeah yeah, it Yeah, as somebody who has noticed.
Those are good questions I don’t have the answer to those. It’s a great question I don’t have an answer to it. It’s like those’s a really good questions.
Patterns in my own home of oh when I take my laptop to a specific place and the signal gets kind of funky ah and knowing like oh well I’m on the opposite side of the room that has the microwave and yeah like.
All these devices that could affect that signal and even noticing patterns of if my cell phone is too close to my video game controller. It will affect the connectivity between the controller and the game system.
Um, but but those are all radio waves that are competing with each other. It’s like there was um, there’s actually a monitor the lg ultrafin monitor that was made for max years ago and the first iteration of that monitor was really funny.
Didn’t have the proper shielding on it and so you’d be using this monitor and it would screw up your wi-fi like it would get you disconnected from wi-fi so you got this monitor, you’d plug it in and start to using it and your wi-fi would go in and out and stop working and affect the speed is because they didn’t shield it so the second iteration that they put the proper shielding in and problems fixed. But so it’s like yeah there are problems with.
That seems like a terrible problem.
Interference yet? No, That’s a horrible problem. So it’s It’s 1 of those this this is something that I I don’t know the answer to it. It could it couldn’t but I don’t There was nothing in the the literature because like I’m not a scientist but when I read these research papers. They don’t. Explore that. So It’s like I would we would need to talk to somebody that would have better knowledge for how is that even possible because I don’t believe this is not emitting radio waves or anything like that. So. It’s like I don’t imagine it would affect Wifi or bluetooth but we’d have talked to somebody else. Yeah.
Interesting, interesting to yeah to talk to somebody and and look in that vein. There was also this question from dark who wrote 1 danger I can see is the fact that electrolyte and batteries gets used up over time not consumed but it changes its composition. And that’s why capacity drops What would happen to a house if there were bricks of this fashion in the walls would you effectively have a finite amount of time that they would work or again it keeps going back to the question of. Does something structural happen to the concrete over time so that it would actually become a weaker spot.
That’s the thing where it’s like that’s where more testing is needed because these tests were short so like short term tests. They only did 6 cycles of the battery. So it’s like they weren’t like looking at the concrete for a year or simulating 3 or 5 years it was literally just.
Um, yeah.
Build the battery test it what kind of results. Do we get over 6 rounds of testing and now it’s going to be probably more like what does it look like after 30 rounds of testing or 1 hundred rounds of testing and simulating 3 years of abuse 5 years of abuse. It’s like that kind of thing. It’s like that’s part of the whole process of this so this is still so early that it’s like there was no data that I found.
It also raises questions about temperature impact which is something that’s come up in so many of your other videos about these various technologies where it works as long as it’s not too hot or too cold and when you’re talking about a chemical reaction. We know that chemical reactions and batteries.
On that? yeah.
Have direct impact from being too cold. You can effectively stall. The chemical reaction. So would this be something that would only be able to be used in the subtropical or tropical zone. As opposed to being able to use it somewhere if you go back to the idea of like okay you’ve got a lamp post and the lamp post has a concrete foundation and that concrete foundation is the battery. But if you’re in winitoba in the middle of January. Are you just building. A.
Yes, it doesn’t work.
Lamp post that doesn’t actually do anything for you because it’s just too cold.
There was also this from zero one of one who wrote and this is a longer 1 but I think it’s it’s an interesting comment 1 of the reasons why modern concrete bridges need to be replaced every 30 to 40 years is because of a red ox red. Reaction the iron steel rebar within the concrete starts to rust which expands in volume as it does so this expansion especially when combined with colder temperatures or wetter climates causes the concrete to crack which allows more moisture in and then increases the redox reaction even more. The fact that this cement is based upon a redox reaction worries me how long will the concrete last even if the concrete lasts how long will it remain operational as a battery I think this requires a massive amount of study and further development before it can be considered a viable alternative. Concrete itself without the rebar can last a thousand years a more if you get the right mix and don’t add anything that can rust the coliseum in Rome is a prime example of this thought that this was just yes, an amazing comment. It’s it’s like if you ever do a deeper dive into this subject. It seems like this is a comment.
Amazing comment. Yeah.
And among the others that that I spotted that you should start your your your research with because it’s it’s something like this that just perfectly illustrates the comparison of you take the coliseum in Rome and other ancient sites. Around the world which are built out of stone in some cases porn not porn in some cases poured stone structures which have been you know created and moved in and.
Yes. Something very different.
Put into position but effectively bricks and those bricks lasting hundreds but hundreds of years but as is pointed out at the beginning of the comment we have to replace modern bridges and the reason for that is because of this kind of reaction which is the very key. To the battery charge that is being talked about so it really does create the question of are you looking at a technology which is self-defeating is this does this ultimately land in the in the area of being a completely academic exercise.
Yes, yeah.
And really very fascinating that they’re able to say look we’ve we’ve held a charge. We’re able to power this light from this brick but would the very aspect that creates the storage and the ability to release that charge doom that brick.
To a life cycle of handful of years. It’s really, it’s really interesting.
That’s that’s what that’s where I brought up the the comment of it’s this is early days. It’s like there’s still more testing that has to be done but this is 1 of those the study caught my eye because I was like oh this is interesting and it’s 1 of those I’ve been recently starting a new. Series on my channel which is just called revisiting and so I’m kind of going back to topics I talked about a year ago see how they’re doing and I’m going to be doing this on a more frequent basis now and so it’s like this is the kind of thing of this caught my eye in a year I’ll probably come back and revisit this and do a deeper dive on it see where it’s gone. What hasn’t gone.
If it’s fizzled out because they discovered something like this. So it’s 1 of those this is more of me just raising awareness of hey this is a cool piece of news that came out. Let’s keep our eye on it. So I definitely want to revisit this at some point in the future.
Yeah I think it’s It’s definitely worth revisiting because this is it looks like a bit of magic when you have the ability to do what they’re doing in the lab. But as is often the case.
This is.
What can be done in the lab under very controlled circumstances might not have a practical application. It might not have a practical application ever or for a long time. Your channel is full of videos which start off with the first person to ever come up with this idea was in eighteen forty.
Um, yeah.
Yeah, it. It doesn’t it doesn’t mean that this will never have an application but the fact that it’s such specific conditions. At this point I think it’s very early days and you know tongue in cheek you say like oh this building would be the world’s biggest battery. But yeah. The reality is. We’re not looking at the next five or 10 or even 15 years of anybody saying I need to plug my house into my house.
Yeah, no, there’s there’s also um I probably may need to make a better distinction this in my videos when I’m talking about future tech versus talking about what’s more current because this is like you just mentioned it could be 1520 years before this ever becomes a thing if it can become a thing There’s a huge gap between bench lab testing and making it a commercialized product and there are tons of great, amazing technological ideas that never get to that part. Because they can’t figure out how to mass produce it. They can’t figure out how to commercialize it they discover halfway along the way that there is no real good use case because a different technology beat them to the punch and now they’re kind of like it’s kind of pointless. It’s too expensive. Whatever it is. It’s like so many products fail in between that lab and commercialized product. Space. So. It’s like this may never happen. It may never go anywhere but it’s 1 of those It’s interesting and cement. Batteries are not new but that what their advancement is is new and so it’s kind of like raising an eyebrow of oh there might be something here again. So let’s keep a cloud.
Close eye on that.
Yeah, definitely worth checking out in the future and revisiting so to the listeners I’m curious. This is probably not the only tech that Matt has talked about that deserves a revisit I’m curious. The listeners. What of Matt’s previous videos would you like him to go back and take another look at and provide an update and maybe examine has there been progress or have things stalled or has it turned out that what was there has just kind of stood still.
Evaporated. Yeah.
And there hasn’t been a whole lot of development 1 way or another let us know you can find the contact information in the podcast description or you can if you’re on youtube just scroll below this video and leave a comment there. Forget there are ways to directly support the podcast you can visit still tbd dot fm and you’ll see the support the podcast link or if you’re watching us on youtube and again my apologies for the band-aid we have a membership button. It’s the join button and you’re able to provide us support directly there we do appreciate whatever kind of support. You’re able to give whether it’s just listening subscribing and sharing this with your friends all of that really does help the podcast. The podcast helps the channel the channel helps Matthew and then Matthew. Uses still images of me holding bagels over my face in place of my bandaged face. We’ll talk to you next time everybody thanks so much for listening.
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