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Swedish latest research points to future battery made of wood for sustainable energy

Monday, 26 March 2012
There is still a vacuum in the a growing technological sector - lack good storage capability for electricity generated from solar and wind power so that it cane be used in a future time as needed for example, during nights and still days.

Many of today's batteries, that would have been used to store these energies, are inefficient. The main problems being associated with that is they use rare earth metals and pollutants such as lead. But now Swedish researchers are producing what could be an environmentally friendly rechargeable battery from a substance found in wood.

“The reason we set out to try and develop new ones is that with the development of organic electronics, which makes electricity from sunlight, there is the need for a matching technique for storing the electrical energy,” said Olle Inganäs, professor of bio molecular and organic electronics, Linköping University, Sweden.

The substance that scientists have discovered that could be used in storing electricity comes from trees. It's called lignin, representing about a quarter of the wood content. The study took advantage of a sulphuric process, a waste product from pulp production that would otherwise be burnt. From the lignin in the pulp remnants bred a material that in itself does not conduct electricity, but has the ability to store the charged electrons and protons.

The view that metals conduct electricity and wood rather insulates are perhaps surprising to learn of the new development. But in the photosynthesis of green plants, it is just carbon-based molecules that transport charged particles and combining the energy of the sun – is a reasoning that actually inspired the researchers to use lignin, which are chemical compounds that include molecules that convert the energy in photosynthesis.

Attempts have been made to produce batteries in a similar manner, already 25 years ago, and lignin was not used in them before – but the effect is much higher in the new study.

If scientists manage to create a wood-based battery, its advantages could be that it would be cheap, biodegradable and one would not need to use rare earth or environmentally harmful substances.

Although it is far from a finished battery, Olle Inganäs thinks it is possible to feed the planet with the technology, once it is mature – for now it's very immature so far.
By Team

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