Making Batteries from Trees?

New Battery Technology Using Plants

The large Finnish paper company Stora Enso is drawing the abundant material lignin toward a role in manufacturing battery materials as ready raw material for battery anodes. Lignins are particularly in forming cell walls in plants. The lignin material is derived from a by-product of the paper pulping process. The company has named its products based on lignin materials “Lignode.”

Sensing a strong accelerating demand for suitable material for batteries, the expectation is that the material can be cost-efficient enough to compete with other materials for batteries for electric cars.

Stora Enso has a battery development partner in the form of Swedish battery maker Northvolt with Stora having taken the lead in developing the lignin-based terminals. Lignins are a class of complex organic polymers that form key structural materials in the support tissues of most plants. Lignins are particularly important in the formation of cell walls, especially in wood and bark, because they lend rigidity and do not rot easily.

“The joint battery development with Northvolt marks a step on our journey to serve the fast-growing battery market with renewable anode materials made from trees. Our lignin-based hard carbon, Lignode® by Stora Enso, will secure the strategic European supply of anode raw material, serving the sustainable battery needs for applications from mobility to stationary energy storage,” says Johanna Hagelberg, Executive Vice President for Biomaterials at Stora Enso.

Even though researchers are bringing down the cost of lignin anodes, other researchers view the commercial viability of graphite materials as likely winning the competitive technological battle.

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