The Batteries of the Future Might Be Made From…Wood?

Sweden's Northvolt and Finland's Stora Enso are teaming up on the tech

A view of cut logs from the end. We look at how Northvolt is developing wood-based batteries.
Scientists are looking to turn wood into batteries.
Timo C. Dinger/Unsplash

When you think of batteries and the materials used to make them, what comes to mind? Nickel is one ingredient that’s become somewhat ubiquitous; the same is true for lithium. But one group of researchers is attempting to use an unexpected source for their next-generation batteries: wood. While the idea of wooden batteries can seem absurd on the surface, the science behind this endeavor makes more sense than you’d think.

A new article by Scooter Doll at Electrek outlines the thinking that informed this project. The initiative comes from the Swedish company Northvolt, whose founders are former Tesla executives. They had the idea of producing “the world’s first industrialized battery featuring anode sourced entirely from European raw materials, lowering both the carbon footprint and the cost,” which led Northvolt to explore using wood harvested nearby to obtain the material in question.

Northvolt recently signed a Joint Development Agreement with the Finnish paper company Stora Enso with the aim of creating what Northvolt describes as “a sustainable battery featuring anode produced from renewable raw materials sourced sustainably and locally in Nordic countries.” The idea is to use lignin-based hard carbon for the anode, lignin being a plant-derived polymer which makes up 20-30% of trees.

Northvolt’s chief environmental officer, Emma Nehrenheim, described this new relationship as “expanding the European battery value chain.”

“It is an exciting demonstration of how our pursuit of a sustainable battery industry goes hand-in-hand with creating a positive impact both on society and cost,” Nehrenheim said in a statement. It’s an intriguing way of approaching battery manufacturing, and if this can make them more sustainable, so much the better.

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