Switching to green energy seems all well and good until you get into the details.
For example, when using power sources like solar, wind, or electric cars, you need a way to store the power generated. That's where heavy use of batteries comes in which use toxic metals that are, while not rare, are certainly not abundant. Especially in the US or EU. And the mining of Lithium, Cobalt, and Nickel for batteries and "greener vehicles" creates a great deal of pollution as well as supply bottlenecks.
Strangely enough, a unique and promising solution to this problem is a paper battery. And paper isn't scarce at all. Nor is zinc or manganese.
Yes, you read that right. Paper batteries.
A creative startup company in Singapore, named Flint (not to be confused with the city in Michigan), has turned the battery-making process upside down by replacing the contents of lithium-ion batteries with zinc and manganese as the two sides of the battery. All on paper.
These paper batteries are not only rechargeable, they're bendable. I mean really bendable - just like paper is bendable. These can even be cut while in operation, and continue to function normally. And because the batteries can be cut, stacked, bent, and shaped into any form, they can be put into pre-existing forms, like a coin cell battery, a AA battery, or an electric vehicle battery.
This means that battery manufacturers can easily transition to using paper batteries in existing product lines, and consumers can easily use paper batteries, because a AA cell battery is a AA cell battery. Except that a paper AA cell battery is lighter. This keeps things simple. And these batteries will break down in your compost pile in one month in the back yard.
Interestingly enough, these batteries cost ten times less to produce than standard batteries. (Probably because the materials are significantly less expensive.)
Are these paper batteries a fire hazard? Actually, they're significantly less of a hazard than the current lithium ion batteries, which produce flames that burn at such a high temperature they can cause serious problems to firefighters. These paper batteries are fire resistant. Even if you cut the battery in half while it's working, it still won't ignite. (In fact, it'll still work if cut in half.)
The journey from startup to marketplace is happening now. Flint is working with OEMs to install rechargeable paper batteries in products in Singapore, and by 2030 if all goes as planned, expect to see paper batteries worldwide.
Further studies need to be done to measure and increase capacity and determine extent of use and lifetime of paper batteries (the perennial issue with any and all batteries), but so far, results are extremely promising, due to 1) the safety of the batteries, and 2) the compostability.
Who ever would have thought of a paper battery?
Keep your eye on Flint. Who knows if opportunities for paper mills may arise in the future?
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