Researchers develop living bricks that generate energy

The UK-based Active Living Infrastructure: Controlled Environment (ALICE) research consortium has developed a prototype described as able to revolutionise housing and replace fossil fuels. At the intersection between biology and digital technology, the ALICE prototype creates a ‘living, breathing, energy-generating microbial system that can simultaneously supply power to your home and talk to you through augmented reality to tell you how productive and “happy” it is’. The key elements in this system are ‘living bricks’ containing microbes that use liquid waste to generate energy, which can then be turned into electricity and clean water. The prototype uses biosensors to record data produced by the microbial electrons; it then fuses biological and digital technologies to converse with the microbes and indicate whether they need to be fed or warmed to generate more bioelectricity. Later on, a digital overlay of the information gathered from ALICE’s conversations with the microbial life in each brick is displayed back to the household using augmented reality. The ALICE consortium is funded by UK Research and Innovation, Horizon 2020, and the EU’s Innovation Awards, and it comprises Newcastle University, the University of the West of England, and Translating Nature.