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Engineers using wood waste to make more sustainable batteries

A renewable product manufacturer has hired engineers to harness lignin, a polymer found in trees, for batteries

Stora Enso

Engineers have been exploring wood waste as a way of creating more sustainable batteries.

As the BBC reports, Finnish pulp and paper manufacturer Stora Enso — one of the leading providers of renewable products in packaging, biomaterials, wooden construction and paper — has hired engineers to harness lignin, a polymer found in trees, for batteries.

Trees are made up of 20-30% lignin, which is one of the world's biggest renewable sources of carbon and can be recovered from the pulp left over from during the paper and wood manufacturing process. This carbon could potentially forgo the need for materials like graphite (whose production can be environmentally damaging) in creating the anode of a battery.

"Lignin is the glue in the trees that kind of glues the cellulose fibres together and also makes the trees very stiff," Stora Enso's Lauri Lehtonen told the BBC. The company's Lignode battery purports to offer a lithium-ion or sodium-ion battery that can be charged in eight minutes. Lithium-ion batteries are used to power electric vehicles and are found in many electronic devices. 

"One of the challenges of today’s lithium-ion batteries is the use of graphite," write Stora Enso. "Graphite is a fossil carbon which is either mined or made from other fossil-based materials. The extraction through mining is often also done under less than satisfactory conditions, with social and environmental consequences."

The firm has teamed up with Swedish company Northvolt and hopes to begin manufacturing the batteries in 2025. Find out more about Lignode here.

Read about vinyl's impact on the environment in this DJ Mag feature, which asks whether the format can ever be environmentally-friendly, originally published in January 2020, here.

Image via Stora Enso