(CNN)Whether humans were erecting Neolithic dwellings, ranch-style homes or modern McMansions, bricks have been a favorite of builders for thousands of years.
Now, chemists have discovered new potential in these ubiquitous building blocks: Through a series of reactions, scientists have shown that conventional bricks can be transformed into energy storage devices powerful enough to turn on LED lights.
The findings were published Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature Communications.
While scientists caution that much more development is needed before these "smart bricks" are commercially available, they say the proof of concept holds promise that could one day turn the walls of a home into a battery to store renewable energy.
"What we have demonstrated in our paper is sufficient enough for you to light up emergency lighting that's in a hallway or sensors that could be embedded inside the walls of a house," said Julio M. D'Arcy, an assistant professor of chemistry at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and one of the study's authors.
"The next step is trying to store more energy, so that you can power bigger devices -- like maybe a laptop -- directly from the walls of the house."
Bricks have been prized by architects for their aesthetic appeal and capacity to store heat, but using them to hold electricity has never been tried before, D'Arcy said.
To unleash their energy storage potential, the researchers said they capitalized on bricks' natural structure.
"We took advantage of what bricks offer, and what they offer is a porous network and a very strong material," D'Arcy said.