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Swedes construct wood-based carbon fibre car roof and battery

10 February 2016

Swedish researchers have built a model car with a roof and battery made from wood-based carbon fibre, a sustainable alternative to metals and other composites.

Although it's built on the scale of a toy, the Swedish team believes this prototype vehicle represents a 'giant step' towards realizing a vision of new lightweight materials derived from biomaterials. The demonstration is a joint project of KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, the Swedish researcher institute Innventia and Swerea, a research group for industrial renewal and sustainable development.

The key ingredient in the carbon fibre composite is lignin, a constituent of the cell walls of nearly all plants that grow on dry land. Lignin is the second most abundant natural polymer in the world, surpassed only by cellulose.

Göran Lindbergh, Professor of Chemical Engineering at KTH, says that the use of wood lignin as an electrode material came from previous research he conducted along with Innventia. Lignin batteries can be produced from renewable raw materials, in this case the by-product from paper pulp production.

The lightness of the material is especially important for electric cars because greater range can be achieved. Also, lignin-based carbon fibre is cheaper than ordinary carbon fibre. Batteries made with lignin are indistinguishable from ordinary batteries, Lindbergh asserts.

Lindbergh also believes carbon fibre bodywork and batteries could eventually be combined to simultaneously manage mechanical loads and store electrical energy.

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