Researchers at The University of Maryland have been testing tiny battery components made by coating a sliver of wood with tin. While still in the early experimental phase, their research so far is promising.
The goal is replace environmentally costly materials such as lithium with more benign sodium. So far, a major block has been that sodium doesn’t store energy as well, and current batteries made with sodium are too brittle to handle the swelling and shrinking that occurs as electrons are stored.
Wood fibers, however, the researchers note, are surprisingly pliant. They’ve been able to last more than 400 cycles, making them among the best of the new category of “nanobatteries.”
If this technology could be refined to achieve the performance of lithium batteries but using sodium, non-polluting batteries could be designed to store large amounts of energy.