Building with smart bricks that generate power from human & household waste

  • 9 Aug 2016

A team of international researchers are working on a £2.7m, 3 year project to create building blocks that can generate electricity from human and household waste. The aim is to enable homes to also be mini power and sewage treatment plants.

Bioreactor walls of smart bricks

A high-tech element can be added to the microbial process because microbial fuel cells are naturally-occurring computers. The plan includes exploring how their mechanisms can be digitally coordinated.

Rachel Armstrong, former TED Fellow and Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, which is co-ordinating the project (

Rachel Armstrong, former TED Fellow and Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University, which is co-ordinating the project (

They hope that combining proven technologies, they can create ‘Bioreactor walls’ from smart bricks that offer a kind of digestive system for homes and offices, to tackle both global energy scarcity and mounting waste.

The goal is to create a section of wall with ceramic-based blocks, or bricks, through which foul water can permeate, allowing the microbial fuel cells to do their work.

Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture, Newcastle University commented: “The best way to describe what we’re trying to create is a ‘biomechanical cow’s stomach. It contains different chambers, each processing organic waste for a different, but overall related, purpose – like a digestive system for your home or your office.”

Professor Andrew Adamatzky, UWE added: “A building made from bio-reactors will become a large-scale living organism”

Top image: UWE’s Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, at work on a microbial fuel cell (UWE)


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