The latest episode in the American Chemical Society’s (ACS’) award-winning Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions podcast series takes its inspiration from trees. It describes the development of a battery made from a sliver of wood coated with tin that shows promise for becoming a tiny, long-lasting, efficient and environmentally friendly energy source.
Based on a report by Liangbing Hu, Ph.D., and Teng Li, Ph.D., in ACS’ journal Nano Letters, the new podcast is available without charge at iTunes and from www.acs.org/globalchallenges.The device is 1,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper, according to the report. Hu explains that today’s batteries often use stiff, non-flexible components. These are too rigid to release the stress that occurs as ions flow through the battery. The scientists knew that wood fibers from trees are supple and naturally designed to hold mineral-rich water, similar to the electrolyte used in batteries. They decided to explore use of wood as the base of an experimental sodium-ion battery. Using sodium rather than lithium would make the device environmentally friendly.He describes lab experiments in which the device performed successfully though 400 charge-discharge cycles, putting it among the longest-lasting of all sodium-ion nanobatteries. Batteries using the new technology would be best suited for large-scale energy storage applications, such as wind farms or solar energy installations, he says.Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions is a series of podcasts describing some of the 21st century’s most daunting problems, and how cutting-edge research in chemistry matters in the quest for solutions. Global Challenges is the centerpiece in an alliance on sustainability between ACS and the Royal Society of Chemistry. Global Challenges is a sweeping panorama of global challenges that includes dilemmas such as providing a hungry and thirsty world with ample supplies of safe food and clean water, developing alternatives to petroleum to fuel society, preserving the environment and ensuring a sustainable future for our children and improving human health.For more entertaining, informative science videos and podcasts from the ACS Office of Public Affairs, view Prized Science, Spellbound, Science Elements and Global Challenges/Chemistry Solutions.