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Going Green: Batteries Made of Wood?

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The use of batteries is prevalent in our daily lives. We use batteries in our many gadgetries, toys and essential items – cars, computers, laptops, radios, MP3 layers, mobile phones, watches and clocks.

Batteries are largely divided into two categories: Primary (Which are not rechargeable) and Secondary batteries which are rechargeables.

Batteries are considered as a problem material in the waste stream. This is because the batteries are made from a variety of chemicals to power their reactions. Some of these chemicals, such as nickel and cadmium, are extremely toxic and can cause damage to humans and the environment.

In particular, they cause soil and water pollution and endanger wildlife. Cadmium can cause damage to soil microorganisms and affect the breakdown of organic matter. It can also bio-accumulate in fish, which reduces their numbers and makes them unfit for human consumption.

Seeing this worrying trait, scientists from University of Maryland have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin. The components in the battery tested by scientists are a thousand times thinner than a piece of paper. Using sodium instead of lithium, as many rechargeable batteries do, makes the battery environmentally benign.

Sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium, so we won’t be seeing this battery in our cell phone—instead, its low cost and common materials would make it ideal to store huge amounts of energy at once – such as solar energy at a power plant.

Existing batteries are often created on stiff bases, which are too brittle to withstand the swelling and shrinking that happens as electrons are stored in and used up from the battery. The team of scientist found that wood fibers are supple enough to let their sodium-ion battery last more than 400 charging cycles, which puts it among the longest lasting nanobatteries.

We hope that this innovative study will be commercially available soon. Our tired Earth very much need all the help she can get.



A sliver of wood coated with tin could make a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly battery.

Credit: Maryland NanoCenter

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