Photo of two trees

#Environment

Batteries made from trees – what could be greener?!

Environment > Batteries made from trees – what could be greener?!

You can read this in 3 minutes

We’ve not gone ‘barking’ mad, honest…

01 September 2021, 4:25 PM

Share

You wood not believe (hehe) what Finnish designers have discovered. They’ve found a material in wood that can produce sustainable battery power, so it’s all natural, baby!

Stora Enso has built a new production facility costing €10 million that will create renewable bio-based carbon by turning trees into batteries, using a wood-based material called lignin.

The company is already responsible for developing a number of wood and biomaterial-based solutions for everyday problems that require eco-friendly alternatives, and their innovative and super cool products range from mouldable woods to formed fibre food packaging, which are products that are manufactured by pressing various wood-based pulps into a three-dimensional shape in a moulding machine – pretty cool, right?

The Finnish designers have found that carbon contained within the non-toxic material can be used to replace the fossil fuels and mined metals found in our lithium-ion batteries, which usually require graphite to function.  

So, what exactly is lignin?

Lignins are crucial to the formation of plant cell walls, especially in wood and bark as they make them rigid and don’t easily rot. Lignins are separated from the wood and are then refined into a lightweight carbon powder which is pressed into strips as a substitute for non-renewable graphite. Graphite can produce carbon dioxide which gets trapped in the atmosphere and is the main cause of climate change – so you can see why lignin is a far better option!

But are our regular batteries really that bad for the environment? Pretty much! As batteries corrode, their chemicals soak into soil and contaminate our ecosystems. Plus, lithium batteries can cause landfill fires that can burn for several years, causing major air contamination and pollution. Ohh hell naw!

So, what does this tree-sourced tech mean for batteries going forward?

Almost all portable electronics are now powered by lithium-ion batteries, but these batteries can overheat which is why they can't be used to power larger machinery, such as aeroplanes. However, by transitioning to this renewable energy technology, that could all change…

First of all, it’s scalable, as it’s possible to produce these batteries commercially due to the wide availability of the resource required to make them, AKA trees!

The Finnish designers also believe a fully functional battery like this has the capacity to charge at a faster rate than the fossil-fuel powered market leader, so it’s speedy which is a bonus! And it performs better at lower temperatures, so the battery is operational under cooler temperatures, which opens doors to powering more electric vehicles.  

This natural carbon could go on to power everything, from our electronics to automotive systems, and Stora Enso are currently exploring partnerships to accelerate scale up and commercialisation in Europe, which is something we are absolutely rooting for!  

What else could these new batteries power? Let us know over on our social media channels!

Next article: Ocean waste that floats our boats!

Warning: may blow your mind!

Check out our top picks

top_picks_food_waste_hires_1.jpg

The food waste app that’s revolutionising the way we eat

Top_Picks_Iceberg_Crop.jpg

Saving the ice caps, one bead at a time

Top_Picks_Fashion_Crop2.jpg

The future of sustainable fashion

Incredible people, unbelievable stories

#differencemakers

We can all
change the world

We are #DifferenceMakers, a ground-breaking movement inspiring us all to make a change, no matter how big or small, by sharing remarkable stories of how engineering and technology are saving the world around us. Expect the unexpected – from super sustainable fashion and squeaky clean streaming, to apps that combat food waste and
tech to stop the ice caps melting.

We’re changing the way everyone sees engineering and technology, and proving they're a force to be reckoned with when it comes to saving our planet! If you care about making a difference and want to learn more, then join our movement today.

#DifferenceMakers was created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) – one of the world’s largest engineering institutions and a diverse home for everyone in engineering and technology.