Manufacturing Batteries from Paper Biomass

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As of today, the manufacturing process for batteries makes them one of the least eco-friendly devices in the energy sector, and have subsequently have received relatively low attention as a green technology solution. Out of the efforts that are present, many aim at extending their durability or storage capacity instead, and so production is not a particularly popular field for innovation. This, however, doesn’t mean such projects don’t exist.

Only recently have researchers from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) registered a patent for a new sustainable method of using paper biomass to manufacture new batteries.

The main by-product in the papermaking industry is lignosulfonate, a sulfonated carbon waste material, which in most cases is combusted right on site, discharging carbon dioxide after sulphur has been trapped for reuse. Where batteries have a negative anode made of lithium metal oxide and a positive cathode made of a sulphur-carbon mix, this mix is substituted by the biomass. At this time, a prototype of the battery has been created using this method already and it can withstand approximately 200 cycles of charging and discharging.

This method allows the researchers to make rechargeable lithium-sulphur batteries. It is predicted that they will be used for powering big data centres and provide a more economical alternative storage option for microgrids as well as the traditional electric grid.

Some of the advantages of the method, apart from a green manufacturing process, include the very low cost of creating the batteries and readily available supply of biomass, however the challenges of comparatively short life-cycles remain. While the team has said this is their first developmental focus, this is a crucial barrier to overcome before these batteries can offer a pragmatic alternative.

Any innovative means of energy storage exhibiting an approach that is both economically viable as well as environmentally friendly is an exciting prospect for Dashboard. While the battery industry historically has thrived to the detriment of the environment, it’s incredibly positive that modernised manufacturing alternatives are not only seeing continued development, but are also yielding conclusive results.

Author: Nadja Kaukiainen

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