Written by Mareka Tsongas, ESLLC 2015-2016
Many people believe that the Prius car is really good for the environment but in actuality the material used to make the cars is doing more harm to the environment than it’s helping. There is now a pretty good alternative where we can have both. Now there is the technology to make solar panels on top of cars made with renewable materials.
Swedish researchers, in a joint project with the KTH Royal Institute of Technology Stockholm and Swedish researcher institute Innventia and Swerea, have recently come up with the technology to make a car with a roof battery made from wood based carbon fiber. This alternative is lightweight and renewable in contrast to the wasteful heavy metal and composite alternatives. By reducing weight it helps cars get better gas mileage and be less wasteful. It is also really important in electric cars because it helps get better use of the electricity, preserve the battery and help it last longer Although it’s only a prototype this is a huge step forward in technology and sustainability.
The carbon fibre composite that they have created is made with lignin which is found in most plants(that grow on dry land, especially trees) in their cell walls. Of course deforestation is a big problem so it might not be the best solution but trees can be harvested sustainably and it is a renewable source unlike oil and metal. This is important because this product lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, cellulose being the first. Wood lignin can be used as an electrode material. They are also produced with renewable materials. In this case they are using paper production byproduct. Lignin based batteries are just the same as other batteries so people don’t have to worry about their car not working as well as a car with say a lithium based battery. A huge plus to this is also that lignin based fiber is much cheaper than carbon fiber so it could help to outweigh the costs of the technology that would be involved in the car. Göran Lindbergh, Professor of Chemical Engineering at KTH, says that eventually, carbon fibre bodywork and batteries could be combined to simultaneously manage mechanical loads and store electrical energy which could revolutionize this already revolutionary car.
“Car Roof and Battery Made with
Byproducts of Paper Production.” ScienceDaily.
ScienceDaily, 19 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2016. <https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/02/160209140820.htm>.