Wooden Batteries Solve Environmental Issue

treehugger blogI have a coffee can full of old batteries. I don't want to toss them in the trash – those things leak all sorts of unfriendly stuff into the environment. Each time I look at the can, I think – why can't they come up with an environmentally friendly battery? I know Doc from one of the "Back To The Future" movies used old banana peels and other odds and ends from the garbage to fuel his car. . . why are we still making batteries that cause tree huggers to shudder?

Well – let tree huggers rejoice. Scientists have also found inspiration from the tall timbers. According to a press release from American Chemical Society, researchers 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.

Liangbing Hu, Teng Li and colleagues point out that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible substrates that are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery. They knew that wood fibers from trees are supple and naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, similar to the electrolyte in batteries. They decided to explore use of wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery. Using sodium rather than lithium would make the device environmentally friendly.

You can read the abstract from Nano Letters here. And if possible, refrain from printing. The trees, tree huggers and future batteries will thank you.

Traci-bio-photo.jpgTraci Purdum
Senior Digital Editor and keeper of old batteries and occasional tree hugger.