To use lignosulfonate to produce energy? It is now possible thanks to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

The need to find innovative solutions to produce energy from alternative sources to fossil fuels continues to grow. An exemplary case is the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the United States, where a team of researchers has studied the potential of lignosulfonate – one of the waste products of the paper industry – in the field of energy storage and has developed an effective and sustainable method to use this biomass in order to build rechargeable lithium-sulfur batteries. Sulfur in its elemental form is not conductive but becomes conductive when combined with carbon at high temperatures. However, it can easily dissolve into the battery electrolyte, causing electrodes to deteriorate after only a few cycles. This technique provides an easy way to create an optimal sulfur cathode from a single raw material. But above all it allows sulfur to be trapped in carbon, preventing it from “mixing” with the electrolyte. The team of researchers also stated that the prototype of lithium-sulfur battery, which currently has the size of a watch battery and can be recharged about 200 times, will be further refined in the future by resizing the device to increase the charge/discharge speed and duration of the battery cycle.

Energy, towards a culture of innovation

According to the 2017 Agi-Censis Report, “The culture of Innovation”, the most important answers to confront the complex challenge of sustainability and the decarbonisation of the economy will come from innovation. In regards to this, according to the data contained in this report, among the infrastructures that are most appreciated by Italians, we can find photovoltaic parks with a percentage of 82.4%, high-speed railway stations (76.4%), and wind farms (73.3%). While among those that are the least appreciated, in the first place are oil refineries with the 77%, followed by the coal-fired power plants (76.5%) and chemical or metal-mechanical plants (63%). There is therefore confidence in new technologies and new discoveries: the 65.6% of Italians are deeply convinced that we will all become producers of energy, thus generating a “smart-grid” scenario, in which it will no longer be only consumption to unite us, but also production. The 57.6% of the respondents stated that they were confident that, thanks to innovation, we would soon have all the energy that we need without significant impacts on the environment. There is a deep and widespread conviction that over the next thirty years we will witness and participate in profound changes in the energy scenarios: according to some people, it will be a manageable change, while according to others, this change will be predominant in regards to energy resources and it will give rise to an increase in social gaps.