Wooden rechargeable batteries from Scandinavia: the pilot projects

Elizabeth Smith

The future is electric. It has been said for some time now, in the field of mobility but not only. Even at a residential level, in fact, the trend is to replace old gas stoves as well as classic radiators with as many electric devices.

The reason, known to all, is linked to the possibility of cutting the use of fossil fuels and relying on the use of electricity, generated from renewable sources.

The crux of the matter lies right here. For electric devices and vehicles to be truly sustainable and make a difference, their batteries need to be filled with green energy from time to time. In reality, however, we are not just talking about energy.

Progress must also be made regarding the construction of batteries. The batteries used today, in fact, are anything but sustainable, being built with materials with a high environmental impact, such as lithium, nickel, cobalt and copper.

For now there are no real alternatives on the market, although it must be said that on a theoretical level there would be different options. We are talking, for example, about graphene, or about hydrogen systems. But that’s not all. The idea of rechargeable wooden batteries, or rather, accumulators built from the use of lignin, comes from Scandinavia.

The Scandinavian idea of rechargeable wooden batteries

Certainly the idea of making rechargeable batteries out of wood is completely surprising, so much so that it seems far-fetched.

However, this is a real project, which is already at a rather advanced level. The protagonists of this initiative are two Scandinavian companies, namely the Swedish company Northvolt, founded in 2017 by two former Tesla executives, and the forestry company Stora Enso.

On the one hand, therefore, a great experience in the world of making batteries for e-cars. On the other a great availability of wood, as well as the skills necessary to transform it. But what do the rechargeable wooden batteries proposed by the two companies actually consist of? We are talking specifically about accumulators with biological carbon anodes, made with lignin.

What is lignin?

To understand how rechargeable wooden batteries can be developed, it is necessary to understand what lignin is. It is a polymer of plant origin found inside the cell walls of stem plants.

After cellulose, this is the chemical compound most present within the material we refer to as wood. Characteristic of lignin is that of being a macromolecule with a high molecular weight.

Read also: The revolutionary lithium-oxygen battery with “infinite” life

Rechargeable batteries with organic carbon anodes

The basis for producing these rechargeable batteries with bio carbon anodes already exists. In fact, the Stora Enso company owns a pilot plant for the production of this sustainable material in Sunila, Finland.

This plant, active since 2015, is able to produce 50 thousand tons of lignin annually. No other company in the world can boast such a high production of this compound.

Starting from this renewable anode material obtained from trees, the two companies aim to build sustainable batteries for the most diverse applications. We are talking first of all about batteries for electric cars, but also, for example, about the accumulators needed for storage systems.

The goal is now to activate the production of rechargeable wooden batteries by 2024. The “magic” should take place in Sweden, in Stora, in an old paper mill recently purchased by Northvolt. The goal is to start immediately with an annual production of over 100 gigawatt hours.

Read also: Electric cars, Sweden is building the first highway that can recharge them

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