After a brief break from blogging, we’re back, and we’re going to start the ball rolling with some news fro the green technology front. Researchers out of the Energy Research Center at the University of Maryland have created an environmentally friendly battery made of wood.The image that may spring to mind may be something akin to an old-school lemon battery with a penny and a nail jammed into a log, but the “wood” employed here is actually a nano-scale cellulose fiber being used to ease the movement of ions (and thus electric charge).
This technology offers a few unique advantages over current batteries. Perhaps the most obvious that the ions employed here are Sodium ions, while the battery in your phone employs more expensive Lithium. The Sodium isn’t as energy dense as Lithium, so the wood batteries won’t make their way into your pocket anytime soon, but it makes stringing together huge farms of the nano-batteries for large scale storage more cost effective. This allows for more efficient storage of solar or wind energy to use on windless nights.
So these new batteries use Sodium, what’s that got to do with wood? Well Sodium batteries use Tin as their anode (the thing that coaxes the Sodium into giving up electrons to flow around circuits), and Tin has a tendency to lose its grip on the battery after just a few charge cycles. But cellulose fibers are used plant matter for transporting electrolytes around the organism, meaning that clinging to the Tin ions while allowing the Sodium to flow is close to its original, biological purpose.
During the course of their research, the team also discovered that the cellulose had a mechanism to aid it in being used for multiple charge cycles. As the battery was charged and discharged the fibers would wrinkle and relax, allowing for far more cycles than other nano-batteries.
While the technology is still a prototype with a long ways to go before becoming commercially viable, it is easy to see the potential is has to change the face of green technology.