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Wood you believe? Forests will produce more than lumber and paper

Sweden’s forests could the be the source for batteries and more. (Photo: David Callahan)

Your car, home and even your clothes could one day soon be outfitted with soft, squishy and shock-proof batteries that are made from — wait for it — trees. Researchers at KTH’s Wallenberg Wood Science Center (WWSC) used wood-based nanocellulose for this latest breakthrough, which dramatically expands the storage capacity of batteries.

“It is possible to make incredible materials from trees and cellulose,” says Max Hamedi, who is a researcher at KTH and Harvard University.

This is by no means the only amazing thing the WWSC has produced. Last year KTH researcher Fredrik Lundell announced the development of biodegradable cellulose fibres that are stronger than steel or aluminium when weight is taken into account.

The battery looks like an ordinary piece of foam. It’s actually aerogel made from wood pulp cellulose, which the researchers treated with electronic properties. One of the biggest advantages of the new material is that it allows three-dimensional structures for batteries, which means packing more juice into a smaller space.

If you think about how a pair of human lungs can cover a football field when they’re unfurled, then you get the idea of what a foamy battery can do. If spread out, a single cubic decimeter of the battery material would cover most of a football pitch, says Hamedi.

“There are limits to how thin a battery can be, but that becomes less relevant in 3D, ” Hamedi says. “We are no longer restricted to two dimensions. We can build in three dimensions, enabling us to fit more electronics in a smaller space.”

Interested in what more can be done with wood? Check out the latest edition of Crosstalks, which features a panel of experts on wood science.

David Callahan

Watch Crosstalks, Green innovation: the forest as a resource for a better future


David Callahan is editor for international news and media at KTH Royal Institute of Technology.