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Pulp and paper mill waste could be used in cheaper batteries


March 23, 2012

Scientists have created a rechargeable battery using the lignin from pulp and paper mills

Scientists have created a rechargeable battery using the lignin from pulp and paper mills

Scientists have discovered that lignin, a plentiful byproduct of the pulp and paper industry, can be used to store an electrical charge. They've used the material to create a prototype lignin-based rechargeable battery, and suggest that it could one day be used as a less expensive, safer alternative to the precious metals currently utilized in battery cathodes.

Lignin is found in plants, and is the second-most common polymer naturally produced by a living organism – after cellulose. When wood fiber is processed, its lignin content is removed to leave the cellulose required for paper production. Organic compounds known as quinones occur naturally within that lignin, and are central to the experimental battery.

Grzegorz Milczarek, from Poland’s Poznan University of Technology, along with Olle Inganäs from Sweden’s Linköping University, blended a lignin derivative with a conductive polymer known as polypyrrole. When the resulting composite was subjected to an electrical charge, the quinones in the lignin shed a proton, and stored the charge in its place. The polypyrrole held onto that proton, allowing it to return to the lignin once the stored charge was released.

Although the battery does lose its charge when sitting idle, Milczarek and Inganäs found that different types of lignin derivatives offered different levels of performance, and believe that they could find one that allows for better charge storage.

Source: American Association for the Advancement of Science

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Why not pulp from Agave which is a care free plant?

Anumakonda Jagadeesh

Really cheap high efficiency batteries would be a good thing even if not practical for mobile devices. Just keep all your generators running at maximum efficiency and let the batteries deal with load variation.


Would these batteries be recyclable?

Carlos Grados

Why not pulp from Hemp!

Marilyn Brannon

Wooden batteries. Who'd a thunk?

Brian Hall

What a great article! I never would have thought that a pulp and paper mill would be able to assist in making batteries. I also never would have though that there would ever be a wooden battery though. I have the same question as Carlos does. Would they be recyclable?

Chuck Chipner
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