Wood Battery: Get Charged!

By Karen Koenig | Posted: 09/04/2013 8:46PM


Wood battery, Maryland NanoCenterThe picture shows the wood fiber after cycling. Photo courtesy of the Maryland NanoCenter.

A battery made from trees? It’s not as outrageous as some would think.

A team of engineers at the University of Maryland have developed a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin. The environmentally friendly battery uses sodium and can store large quantities of energy at once, though not as efficiently as lithium. The target application therefore for this type of battery is grid-scale energy storage, such as solar energy installations.

“The inspiration behind the idea comes from the trees,” said team member Liangbing Hu, assistant professor of materials science. “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.”

Compared to traditional batteries which use stiff, brittle substrates making them unable to withstand the shrinking and swelling from the ion flow, the research team found that the wood fibers remained supple, even after more than 400 charging cycles. This makes it one of the longest-lasting sodium-ion nanobatteries, the research team said.

“Pushing sodium ion’s through tin anodes often weaken the tin’s connection to its base material,” said Teng Li, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “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.”

The research team used wood fibers from southern yellow pine. Their paper, “Tin Anode for Sodium-Ion Batteries Using Natural Wood Fiber as a Mechanical Buffer and Electrolyte Reservoir,” appears in the journal Nano Letters.

Watch the YouTube video "University of Maryland Scientists Create Battery Using Wood"


About the Author

Karen M. Koenig

Karen M. Koenig has more than 25 years of experience in the woodworking industry, including visits to wood products manufacturing facilities throughout North America, Europe and Asia. As Editor-in-Chief of Woodworking Network magazine (formerly Wood & Wood Products), Karen’s primary responsibilities include spearheading the writing, editing and coordinating of the editorial content of the publication, along with the Red Book resource guide and the Red Book online source and supply directory (RedBookOnline.com). She is also a frequent contributor to other Woodworking Network online and print media. She can be reached at kkoenig@woodworkingnetwork.com or Google+.

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