Wind and solar energy production has been on the rise for years. But one thing many experts say hold these energies back, is the fact that they can’t provide power to the grid when there’s no wind or no sun. So many think batteries could be the answer. But batteries are problematic also.
They use expensive rare earth metals like zinc, nickel, or lithium, for example, and environmentally harmful substances like lead. These elements are the parts of the batteries that store energy.
“The reason we started to study the potential for the creation of new batteries is because with the development of organic electronics where you make energy from sunlight you have the matching need of having to store that energy,” Enter Olle Inganas of Linköping University.
And he and a team of researchers have found a new way to store that energy in the most unlikely places – wood.
One of the main elements in wood is a substance called lignin. And it’s abundant because it’s the bi-product of a paper mill, which consists mostly of water and this substance, lignin. Usually, the liquid lignin gets burned. Instead, these researchers took the liquid, and combined it with another chemical. Their research shows that the two chemicals together do, in fact, store a lot of energy.
A finished battery is a long way off. But this development has scientists excited. Inganas says when the storage of energy catches up, that solar energy will have enormous potential.
“You can support the planet with this technology, when it has matured, right now it’s still in the beginning stages,” he says.
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