Remember Stora Enso, the renewable materials company based in Helsinki, which I told you about in this post? It is powering electric vehicles using batteries made from trees, to be exact by harnessing lignin.
In every tree there is 20 to 30% lignin: it is a natural binder that gives the wood its rigidity, and allows it to resist decomposition. Today it can become a biological alternative to fossil fuels and gas driving vehicles these days.
How are lignin batteries obtained?
Stora Enso explains that lignin is separated from wood during the production of cellulose fibers. After extracting it, it is refined into a fine powder, which acts as the active material for the negative anode of a battery.
The operation is the same as that of a normal lithium-ion battery. There are a positive electrode, a cathode and a negative electrode called an anode. Often in normal batteries there is graphite, a material that limits charging times and produces emissions that are harmful to the environment.
By replacing this (fossil-based) graphite with tree-refined lignin dust, the company ensures that electric vehicles can benefit from improved environmental and performance conditions.
Commercialization in Europe is near
The Stora Enso pilot plant is already in operation to supply and produce these "tree-cut" batteries. Lignin can be used not only in car batteries, but also in consumer electronics, or in large-scale energy storage systems.
"With Lignode, we can provide a cost-competitive, high-performance bio-based material to replace graphite," he says. Markus Mannstrom, executive vice president of the Biomaterials division of Stora Enso.
To serve the fast growing anode materials market, we are exploring strategic partnerships to accelerate scale-up and commercialization in Europe.
If that doesn't mean hindering reforestation, so be it.