Plant powered devices? These may soon be a reality with lignin-based rechargeable batteries.
Lignin is an abundant by-product of the paper and pulp industry. It has recently been discovered that lignin can store an electrical charge.
Lignin is the second most common polymer in living organisms, next to cellulose. When wood fiber is processed, the lignin is removed because only cellulose is required in paper production.
Scientists are now beginning designing by crating a prototype of a lignin-based rechargeable batteries. There is high hopes that one day, these will replace heavy metal batteries. Organic compounds known as quinones occur within lignin, these are the central element of the experimental battery.
Grzegorz Milczarek along with Olle Inganäs created a lignin derivative with a conductive polymer known as polypyrrole.
When the composite was exposed to an electrical charge, the quinnones within the lignin shed a proton and stored a charge in the vacated space. The polypyrrole held on to the proton allowing it to return to the lignin once the stored charge was released.
Milczarek and Inganäs are still ongoing reserch to find the lignin derivetive that will allow for better charge strorage.