Energy generating ‘smart bricks’ on display in London gallery

Innovative ‘smart brick’ technology capable of recycling wastewater and generating electricity from sunlight is on display at a renowned London art gallery.

The installation has been developed by a team of scientists at UWE University in Bristol as part of pan-European project bringing together living architecture, computing and engineering.

‘Smart bricks’ include microbes which can clean water, reclaim phosphate, generate electricity and facilitate the production of new detergents as part of the same process. The exhibition features 25 bricks, each of which acts as its own individual microbial fuel cell (MFC) containing real microbes processing wastewater from a 50l tank.

UWE Bristol’s work has been included in one of 10 new experimental multimedia projects responding to critical issues of today to offer speculative visions of the future. The technology forms part of an installation by artist Cécile B. Evans and Rachel Armstrong, Professor of Experimental Architecture at Newcastle University.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, director of the Bristol Bioenergy Centre (BBiC), at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol, said: ‘It’s quite clear, from hard scientific facts, that our planet and our environment are suffering the consequences of centuries of unsustainable practices.

‘Technologies like MFCs, which benevolently exploit the ability of microbes to transform waste into electricity, are examples of alternative means we should be exploring and developing for wider societal use. Is this Tomorrow? is a wonderful forum where this can be showcased as part of innovative exhibits that provoke thinking and it’s a pleasure to work with Cécile B. Evans and Rachel Armstrong.’

As well as ‘smart bricks’, the installation incorporates a curtain of fog and other traditionally uncooperative elements within a framework dictated by ‘absurd’ units of measurement.

This includes the 13sqm surface area deemed as the minimum ‘acceptable’ space for human living and the 999 years designated as the maximum period of occupancy for land within the UK.

The installation asks, what can be achieved in spite of, and beyond, the structures that attempt to rationalise or even contain humanity?

Is This Tomorrow? runs at the Whitechapel Gallery until May 12 2019. Tickets are £12.50/9.50 concession and are available here.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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