Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions

Our Sustainable Future: An environmentally friendly battery made from wood

October 14, 2013

Tree battery
A battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin could become an efficient and environmentally friendly energy source.
iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Summary

Taking inspiration from trees, scientists have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin that shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. Their report on the device — 1,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper — appears in the journal Nano Letters.

Today’s solution is inspired by trees. Scientists report that they have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin. It shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source. The report appears in ACS’ journal Nano Letters.

Liangbing Hu, Ph.D., points out that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible materials that are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery. The team knew that wood fibers from trees are supple, and they’re naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, similar to the electrolyte in batteries.
Here’s Hu, who is at the University of Maryland, and is the lead author of the paper.

 “We decided to explore using wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery. And we used sodium rather than lithium to make the device environmentally friendly.”

In the paper, Hu and colleagues describe lab experiments in which the device performed successfully though 400 charge-discharge cycles, putting it among the longest-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries.

 “Batteries using the new technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage applications, such as wind farms and solar energy installations.”

Smart Chemists/Innovative Thinking

Smart chemists. Innovative thinking. That’s the key to solving global challenges of the 21st Century. Please check out more of our full-length podcasts on wide-ranging issues facing chemistry and science, such as promoting public health, developing new fuels and confronting climate change, at www.acs.org/GlobalChallenges. Today’s podcast was written by Katie Cottingham—that’s me—and I’m at the American Chemical Society in Washington.

Liangbing Hu, Ph.D.
Liangbing Hu, Ph.D., University of Maryland