A team of researchers from the University of Maryland have created a long lasting, efficient, and environmentally friendly rechargeable battery from wood.
Wooden splinters, a thousand times thinner than a piece of paper, are covered in tin; and are then used to create a battery with sodium, instead of the more commonly used lithium. Science Daily explains that sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium, meaning that the batteries will not be compact enough to use in portable devices; but the cheap nature of the materials involved in creating the battery mean that it would be ideal for large scale energy storage, such as in utility-scale solar plants.
Traditional batteries are often created on rigid bases that prove brittle when put under the stress of the constant swelling and shrinking that occurs as electrons are stored in the tin and then released. In their research the scientists found that wooden fibres are soft enough to withstand the constant flexing, and that the sodium-ion battery was able to last for more than 400 charges, making it one of the longest lasting nanobatteries.
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Teng Li, an associate professor of mechanical engineering, explained that “pushing the sodium ions through tin anodes often weakens the tin's connection to its base material. But the wood fibers are soft enough to serve as a mechanical buffer, and thus can accommodate tin's changes. This is the key to our long-lasting sodium-ion batteries.”
Liangbing Hu, an assistant professor of materials science, said that “the inspiration behind the idea comes from the trees. 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.”
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com