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Batteries Image Credit: Wood via Flickr CC

Published on June 19th, 2013 | by James Ayre

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Battery Made From Wood — Efficient, Long-Lasting, Environmentally Friendly Battery Developed

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June 19th, 2013 by
 
An environmentally friendly, efficient, and long-lasting battery created out of wood? Sounds too good to be true? Well it may not be — researchers say that they have now developed just such a battery.

Image Credit: Wood via Flickr CC

Image Credit: Wood via Flickr CC

The tiny new battery — composed of a sliver of wood coated with tin — appears to have great potential, already showing itself to be among the most long-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries. The researchers think that batteries based on this new technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage — such as storing the excess energy produced by some renewable energy installations — due to the relatively low cost of the materials involved.


With regards to the inspiration for the battery design, the researchers noted that wood fibers are naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, water that is very similar to the electrolyte in batteries…. Why not explore the use of wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery? This would help to address to reality “that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible substrates, which are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery.”

The device created from this exploration has already shown itself to be rather promising — successfully lasting through a full 400 charge-discharge cycles.

“The inspiration behind the idea comes from the trees,” said Liangbing Hu, an assistant professor of materials science. “Wood fibers that make up a tree once held mineral-rich water, and so are ideal for storing liquid electrolytes, making them not only the base but an active part of the battery.”

"Close-up image of wood fibers. "Wood fibers that make up a tree once held mineral-rich water, and so are ideal for storing liquid electrolytes, making them not only the base but an active part of the battery." Image Credit: University of Maryland)

“Close-up image of wood fibers. “Wood fibers that make up a tree once held mineral-rich water, and so are ideal for storing liquid electrolytes, making them not only the base but an active part of the battery.”
Image Credit: University of Maryland)

It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of this technology — none of the materials involved are very expensive, and the manufacturing doesn’t seem as though it would be very expensive either.

The researchers received support from the National Science Foundation and the University of Maryland NanoCenter.

The new research was just published in the journal Nano Letters.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • Tarja Ollas

    Link to “new research” is broken. Here is a new one: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/nl400998t

  • Wayne Williamson

    Unfortunately I’m siding with doubters…not to say that nature doesn’t have a lot to teach us. We have a tendency to push nature beyond what it has the ability to perform.

  • rollzone

    hello. what more can these poor trees do for us? one thing which will attack the wood would be heat. even a living tree would be subjected to unnatural energy levels which would “dry” the wood out into combustion. i have noticed trees dislike fire. however, incorporating wood into a graphene mesh soaked in electrolytes, may interest engineering technology.

  • Matt

    If you leave a tree laying on the ground yes it breaks down. But a couple years back they pulled up a bunch of trees off the bottom of one of the great lakes that had been there over 100 years, now being used for instruments and fine furniture. And you can see old barns >150 years old all over the US. And if I go to Europe, there is wood is some of those building >200. So a life of 30-40 years might be in range, it all depends. Not enough information here to tell.

    • Austin

      Wood can last for much longer than just a few hundred years — trees that are hundreds of thousands of years old have been found underwater in various places. And just last year those 400,000 year old spears made of wood were found in Germany.

      • Matt

        My point exactly, that in the right conditions 30-40 years for wood is “easy”. They are at 400 cycle now. If for grid battery we assume 2 cycles per day, then 40000 cycles (100 time current test, 10k is big for batteries) that is 20k days or 54.8 years.

  • Marion Meads

    While the battery made of wood component may last several recharge cycles, I don’t believe that the wood could last a long calendar time. Length of time in this article is in terms of number of recharge cycles and the testing was accelerated, meaning, several recharge cycles are done per hour or per day. It is the calendar days length of time that the wood will not last long from a bio perspective, even if you don’t recharge it, just give it time, the wood will biodegrade and decompose.

    • Bob_Wallace

      You need to come up with something which would attack the wood. Clearly insects are not going to get to it. It’s unlikely microorganisms would live in the chemical bath and at the minimum the wood could be heat treated before processing in a clean room.

      Wood can, and does, last centuries.

    • IVEGOTWOOD

      without microbes, oxygen or a chemical in the electrolytic solution that can break down cellulose, why should the tree biodegrade/decompose?

  • First A. Lastname

    “With regards to…” With regard!

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