June 20th, 2013 by James Ayre
Efficient, environmentally friendly, long-lasting batteries made out of wood? Really? Apparently so — such a battery has now been developed thanks to researchers at the University of Maryland.
The new battery design is essentially just a tiny sliver of wood coated with tin, but this simple design has already shown great potential — proving itself to be one of the most long-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries. When the efficiency and long-lifespan — at least full 400 charge-discharge cycles — of the battery are taken together with the relatively benign nature of the materials involved (and their relative cheapness) the new technology certainly appears to have potential…
Because of the above-mentioned qualities the researchers think that batteries based on the technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage — perhaps used in combination with intermittent renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar.
The battery was — as you can probably guess — inspired by trees. The researchers had previously 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?” Wood would be a much-preferable material to the “stiff, non-flexible substrates, which are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery,” that are currently used.
“The inspiration behind the idea comes from the trees,” said Liangbing Hu, an assistant professor of materials science at the University of Maryland. “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.”
Interesting… There doesn’t appear to be any strong downsides… It’ll be interesting to see if this technology makes it to the commercial stage.
The new technology was detailed in a paper just published in the journal Nano Letters.
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