Pulp to Green-Up Batteries: Game-Changer for Next-Gen Power

Zinc metal batteries (ZnBs) are poised as the next-generation energy storage solution, complementing lithium-ion batteries, thanks to their cost-effectiveness and safety advantages

Thu 16 May 24


A battery made from zinc and Lignin could provide a low-cost, longer-lasting solution for countries with limited access to energy. That is according to research from Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics and Wood Science Centre, Water-in-Polymer Salt Electrolyte for Long-Life Rechargeable Aqueous Zinc-Lignin Battery, published in the Energy & Environmental Materials journal last week.

The new batteries, which combine zinc and Lignin—a wood composite discarded in pulp manufacturing—”are super cheap and easily recyclable,” according to Ziyauddin Khan, Principal Research Engineer at the Department of Science and Technology Linköping University, adding potassium polyacrylate-based water-in-polymer salt electrolyte (WiPSE) to stabilise the battery.

Most importantly, they are safe, stable and ethically sourced – and have the potential to change lives: “While lithium-ion batteries are useful when handled correctly, they can be explosive, challenging to recycle, and problematic on environmental and human rights issues when specific elements like cobalt are extracted,” Professor Khan said, adding “that out sustainable battery offers a promising alternative where energy density is not critical.”

Taiwan is the dominant producer of “lithium batteries,” with audio giants now leading the push to use lignin to find alternatives to reduce their resource dependence on Taiwan and Chinese suppliers – footage courtesy of @ChinaObserver0.

Wood Central understands that the new batteries, known as Zinc metal batteries (or ZnBs), have the same energy density as lead-acid batteries but do not contain hazardous lead. Until now, ZnBs have been used in non-rechargeable batteries; however, that is changing with scientists confident that the new batteries could replace lithium-on.

According to Professor Reverent Crispin, the batteries can be used over 8,000 times while retaining 80% of their functionality, substantially longer than traditional zinc-based batteries, which drain in a matter of hours. Currently, the batteries are small, but the researchers believe they can construct large batteries, around the size of a car battery, because Lignin and zinc are abundant and inexpensive. 

Now, Professor Crispin dreams of a future where countries on the equator could use the batteries. “Solar panels have become relatively inexpensive, and many people in low-income countries have adopted them. However, near the equator, the sun sets at around 6 PM, leaving households and businesses without electricity,” he said. “The hope is that this battery technology, even with lower performance than the expensive Li-ion batteries, will eventually offer a solution for these situations.”

Finnish scientists claim that lignin - up to 20 to 30 per cent of the wood composite - is vital to driving greener construction materials, fashion and critical road infrastructure. (Photo Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)
Finnish scientists claim that lignin – up to 20 to 30 per cent of the wood composite – is vital to driving greener construction materials, fashion and critical road infrastructure. (Photo Credit: Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo)

On Monday, Wood Central reported that material scientists worldwide are working with global forest producers to create new, fully circular products from Lignin – including plasticisers, asphalt, textiles and car batteries.

For Professor Crispin, Sweden’s status as an innovative country allows it to lead the world in helping the world embrace sustainable solutions. “We can view it as our duty to help low-income countries avoid making the same mistakes we did. When they build their infrastructure, they need to start with green technology right away. If unsustainable technology is introduced, it will be used by billions of people, leading to a climate catastrophe,” Professor Crispin said.

Journal Reference:

Kumar, D., et al. (2024) Water-in-Polymer Salt Electrolyte for Long-Life Rechargeable Aqueous Zinc-Lignin Battery. Energy & Environmental

  • The study was supported by the Wallenberg Wood Science Centre, the Swedish Research Council, Åforsk, the Swedish government’s strategic research area on advanced functional materials (AFM) at Linköping University, Vinnova through Fun-Mat II, and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation. The Swedish Energy Agency funds the SESBC centre’s long-term partnership with Ligna Energy AB.


  • Wood Central

    Wood Central is Australia’s first and only dedicated platform covering wood-based media across all digital platforms. Our vision is to develop an integrated platform for media, events, education, and products that connect, inform, and inspire the people and organisations who work in and promote forestry, timber, and fibre.


Related Articles