Climate-smart battery technology wins innovation competition

Ligna Energy AB, a spin-off from Linköping University, has been nominated as winner of one of the two innovation awards in the Startup 4 Climate competition. The announcement was made at the recently concluded COP 26 in Glasgow. 

Peter Ringstad, VD Ligna Energy with a printed battery. The prize is an environmental award for our breakthrough battery technology, based on research at Linköping University” says Peter Ringstad, managing director at Ligna Energy AB Christian Åslund

“It’s just marvellous and a huge encouragement, not least because other talented companies were contenders in the competition”, says Peter Ringstad, managing director at Norrköping-based Ligna Energy AB. “We have received an environmental award for our innovative battery technology. And it’s research at LiU that ensured that this became reality.”

The prize money of SEK 1 million is a welcome contribution to the continued development of the biobased batteries manufactured from residual products from the Swedish forestry industry.

Operations at Ligna Energy are based on research carried out during the past ten years at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics (LOE) at Linköping University. The objective is to produce climate-neutral, large-scale and cost-efficient storage of electricity, which – according to Peter Ringstad – is a precondition for the transition to a fossil-free society.
“Millions of small devices need energy, while it is necessary on a large-scale to have batteries that store energy to use when the sun is not shining and the wind is not blowing. Without batteries, it will not be possible to transition to a society without fossil fuels: you can’t switch off the heating because the sun is not shining. But the batteries must, of course, be produced in a sustainable manner.”

Wooden batteries

Ligna Energy AB is currently working with production and development, in collaboration with Linköping University. The company manufactures components on an industrial scale, in low-volume runs used in several pilot projects.
“It’s an extremely large jump from a research idea to a manufactured product when it comes to battery technology”, says Peter Ringstad. “It will be amazing if we have even the slightest chance of success.”

It’s not unreasonable to call the batteries “wooden batteries” since they are manufactured from lignin, a residual product in the forestry industry. Peter Ringstad points out that trees contain approximately 25% lignin, but the quality differs from one tree species to another. The harder the wood, the better the quality.
“A certain degree of mixing of tree species doesn’t matter so much, but a complete shift from one to another totally different type can give rise to variation. But we don’t see this as a problem. We can deal with a certain amount of variation since the lignin is processed in a couple of stages and it’s possible then to remove some of it.”

Two principal areas

He sees two principal areas in which batteries produced by the company can be successful. The first application is to power sensors in online devices. People who are familiar with current technology will know that these constitute the internet-of-things, or IOT.
“One example is controlling the temperature and energy consumption in buildings. In this case it’s necessary to collect data at several locations to decide what is to be increased and what reduced. Our batteries can power such sensors wirelessly, which makes it unnecessary to change the batteries in them.”
The other application is the stationary storage of electricity, which is connected in a high degree to the consequences of the transition of the energy system to become more sustainable and fossil-free.

“Here we are initially working on applications in properties with solar energy, and to make it easier to charge electric cars. Another application concerns frequency control of the electricity supply. These are expanding markets that give priority to environmental sensitivity and safety, but each delivery has a limited extent. This is positive for a company that is in the process of scaling up its production capacity”, says Peter Ringstad.

The research at LOE at LiU covers a a broad spectrum. All research is based to a certain extent on organic electronics, which is the use of polymers and molecules that conduct electrons, and polyelectrolytes that conduct ions.

Translated by George Farrants

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