Japanese paper manufacturer Nippon Paper [3893:JP] has successfully lit an electric bulb with its self-developed battery made of cellulose nanofibers refined from wood pulp, as reported by Nikkei Asia on December 12. The wood-pulp battery serves as a supercapacitor in which nanofibers store and release electricity. The Japanese company aims to produce a prototype battery for small drones in the fiscal year 2023 and demonstrate a pilot energy storage system at the World Expo in Osaka in 2025. It also plans to commercialize this product in 2030 by deploying wood-pulp batteries into smartphones and small home electronics.
The wood-pulp supercapacitor only has a fraction of the storage capacity of a lithium-ion battery at present. According to scientists from Nippon Paper’s Innovative Materials Research Laboratory, the wood-pulp battery could reach an energy density as high as ten watt-hours (Wh) per kilogram (kg), equivalent to one-20th of that for lithium-ion batteries. However, it has a much more rapid charging capability and lower safety risks compared to lithium-ion cells. Most importantly, it creates possibilities to produce batteries without rare metals such as cobalt, lithium, and nickel. Amid the booming electric vehicle (EV) industry, the lithium price has hit USD30 per kg, more than doubling from the previous year, while the cobalt price has doubled to USD60,000 a ton.