Researchers at the Energy Research Center at the University of Maryland in College Park have developed the prototype to a genius and greener way to store energy: in wood batteries. Don’t be misled, the next generation of energy probably doesn’t involve carrying around blocks of cedar to charge your cell phone. Rather, these wood batteries are actually made from sheets of microscopic wood fibers that are coated with carbon nanotubes and packed into small metal discs. Instead of today’s modern battery, which uses lithium ions, these wood batteries use sodium ions, because as it turns out, wood is a good medium for the flow of sodium ions. What does this mean for the price of energy? Well, both wood and sodium are relatively cheap, and sodium is much more plentiful than lithium
While it’s possible the wood battery prototype may eventually move to production for home-use batteries, it’s unlikely since sodium doesn’t store energy as efficiently as lithium. Yet, given the available supply and low cost of sodium and wood, lead researchers Liangbing Hu and Hongli Zhu are aiming their focus on scaling the wood battery up to a size and capacity ideal for large-scale energy storage — the type required by an electricity grid.
Jim McGregor, Principal Analyst at Tirias Research stated, “I have never seen anything like this before, but I like the sustainability aspect of it, especially for grid-type storage.”
The wood battery goes hand-in-hand with renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is cleaner, more affordable, domestic, and just as infinite as the source it comes from. It produces no emissions and results in cleaner air and water for all. Yet one of the problems encountered with renewable energy is the inability to efficiently store the energy produced. In terms of sources such as solar and wind energy, as it stands, solar energy is stored (albeit, inefficiently), while wind energy is not stored at all, but is rather directly routed to the energy consumer via power lines. The ability to efficiently store wind and solar energy in large-scale wood batteries could be the solution the new generation of energy has been waiting for. I only have one question: How much wood would a battery use if a battery could use wood?
Adhikari, Richard. “UMD Makes a Wood Battery for Pinocchio.” 21 June 2013. TechNewsWorld. 17 July 2013. < http://www.technewsworld.com/story/78320.html>.
Palca, Joe. “All Charged Up: Engineers Create A Battery Made From Wood.” 17 July 2013. NPR. 17 July 2013. <http://www.npr.org/2013/07/17/200782520/all-charged-up-engineers-create-a-battery-made-of-wood>.
Whitwam, Ryan. “Researchers create super-efficient, long-lasting battery from wood.” 2013 June 20. ExtremeTech. 17 July 2013. <http://www.extremetech.com/extreme/159256-researchers-create-super-efficient-long-lasting-battery-from-wood>.
Ever since humanity first gathered in family and tribal bands, our choice of shelter has played a major role in our survival. For a millennia we were confined to caves and forests, reliant on nature to provide us with protection from the elements. Creating more permanent dwellings allowed us to store away more food and also to survive longer periods without having to follow herds or the seasons to survive. From hobbit holes to mall sized mansions to floating apartment buildings, we have expanded our idea of housing to encompass any and every type of dwelling imaginable. Over the years we have a come a long way, from simple animal skin tents to penthouses perched high atop massive sky scrapers: The idea of a simple roof over our heads has grown to much more than the literal interpretation of the phrase.
More recently the idea of sustainable building has developers and consumers alike realizing that building green has its benefits. By implementing economically sound practices such as double pane windows, using more efficient insulation, installing solar tubes and Energy Star rated appliances, just to name a few, the money saved on utilities alone can be staggering over the life of the building. Not only that, but many consumers are now looking to purchase more energy-efficient homes. In fact, according to McGraw-Hill Construction, market share for green homes has more than doubled since 2008, from 8% to 17%. That’s not all, according to the same report, in the next few years that number could grow to somewhere between 29%-38%, or to put in plainly, as high as $114 billion annually. Sustainable construction may not be for just the hippies and tree huggers anymore, it could carve a serious chunk out of the housing market, and builders might be wise to take notice.
In 2000 the U.S. Green Building Council introduced LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) in order to provide developers with guidelines to help reduce their impact on the environment. Since then several other programs have sprouted up, and nearly all offer incentives for green building practices. For example Energy Star offers a $2,000 dollar “refund” for using appliances, and a labeling system for builders to feature in their listings.
Along with a growing market share comes higher asking prices, which builders say home buyers are willing to pay for more sustainable homes. Consumers not only see green building as more efficient, but more reliable and long lasting. In fact in the study put out by McGraw-Hill, 61% of home buyers and 66% of re-modelers are willing to pay a higher premium for green homes. Harvey Bernstein, Vice President of Industry Insights and Alliances at McGraw-Hill notes, “When builders are able to offer homes that not only are green, but also offer the combination of higher quality and better value, they have a major competitive edge over those building traditional homes.”
Being a developer myself, I’ve tried to implement as many green practices as possible. Although it initially affected my bottom line, over time I noticed that the more efficient homes were much easier to sell, and like anything else the more practice you have the more you can perfect the process. Certain things will possibly never be changed, our reliance on petroleum based plastics and copper wiring may be here to stay, but who knows if someone comes out with an alternative it may be able to further reduce the carbon footprint modern construction leaves behind. The green movement seems to be permeating all areas of our daily lives. From transportation to heavy industry to sustainable food growth we are now considering our place in the ecosystem and trying to work with nature instead of against it. Perhaps our newfound love of green living doesn’t place us as far away from animal hide tents and thatched roof homes as we think.
By Will Inglis
“Quality and Value Driving Growth in the Green Building Market—According to New McGraw-Hill Construction SmartMarket Report on Green Homes and Remodeling.” Press Release . McGraw Hill Construction. May 1, 2012
Marcacci, Silvio. “Green Home Building Booming, Could Be $114 Billion Market By 2016.” Clean Technica. June 1, 2012
US Green Building Council. What LEED is. US Green Building Council. n.d.
(image borrowed from ohsheglows.com)
1 ripe, frozen banana
2 bunches of fresh spinach
½ an avocado, chilled
1 tbsp chia seeds
½ cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
½ cup unsweetened coconut water
1 tbsp whole coconut milk
3-5 ice cubes
Optional (for added electrolytes): ½ tbsp lemon juice + ½ tsp sea salt
I’m on a smoothie kick at the moment… Here is a cooling and moisturizing smoothie that’s perfect if you’re feeling hot and dried out.
Freeze banana beforehand. Mix chia seeds with almond milk and set in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Start by blending the frozen ingredients, slowly adding the chia seed mixture. Add remaining ingredients and blend thoroughly.
Feel free to add additional greens if desired. Try some celery, cucumber, kale…