Smart bricks, The Royal Academy of Engineering awards for pandemic engineering solutions and detecting SARS-Cov-2 in sewage

BBC Inside Science

By BBC Radio 4

Smart bricks, The Royal Academy of Engineering awards for pandemic engineering solutions and detecting SARS-Cov-2 in sewage

Thursday, 20 August

Red clay bricks are among the most ubiquitous building materials worldwide. Julio D'Arcy, a chemist at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, describes to Adam Rutherford how he and his team have turned ordinary house bricks into energy storage units that can power home electronic devices – thanks to the red iron oxide (rust) pigment and a conductive plastic nano-material infused into the bricks These new ‘smart bricks’ can be charged to hold electricity a bit like a battery. As the pandemic continues, we continue to try to find ways to manage it, treat the disease, detect it and cure it. As necessity is the mother of invention, we're currently witnessing some of the most intense periods of scientific innovation in the 21st century. And there have been some incredible discoveries, innovations and inventions in just the last 6 months. The Royal Academy of Engineering announced a special round of awards this week, to recognise the heroics of engineers, designers and scientists to help tackle this pandemic. Professor Raffaella Oconé is Chair of the Awards Committee at the Royal Academy of Engineering, and she told Adam about the range of much needed inventions to tackle COVID19. The current mantra of 'test, track and trace has so far had limited success in the UK. In part because of the difficulty of testing enough people, tracking their movements and tracing the spread of the virus. By the time someone is displaying symptoms and then being one of the few people to then get a test, they may have spread the virus to many people. But scientists across the UK and abroad are beginning to realise that maybe there might be a cheaper alternative, that gives even earlier warning of a spike in infection - by detecting the virus in sewage. Presenter: Adam Rutherford Producers: Fiona Roberts and Beth Eastwood
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