One of the difficulties with renewable energy, like solar cells and wind turbines, is the problem of how to store that energy for use when the sun goes down or the wind stops blowing. Researchers in Sweden have come up with a novel solution which they call “power paper”. The slightly plasticky paper made from organic materials has set a world record for its exceptional ability to conduct ions and electrons.
The researchers at Sweden’s Linköping University’s Laboratory of Organic Electronics created the paper by combining nanocellulose with a conductive polymer. The process begins with cellulose, which is subjected to high-pressure water and broken down into nano fibers. Then, an electrically charged polymer is added to the water solution, where it forms a thin coating around the fibers.
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A six-inch piece of power paper of about a tenth of an inch thick can store 1F (farad), a similar capacity to supercapacitors now on the market. It can also recharge in seconds and be charged hundreds of times. Unlike other supercapacitors and batteries now in use, power paper is made from renewable cellulose and a readily available polymer.
The paper is also lightweight, waterproof and can be produced in thick sheets. It requires none of the heavy metals or toxic materials that are found in many traditional batteries and capacitors. The team even managed to create an origami swan from the paper, a testament to the strength and flexibility of the material.
Images via Thor Balkhed / Laboratort for Organic Electronics, LiU