Swedish sustainable packaging giant BillerudKorsnäs and researchers at Uppsala University have partnered to bring paper batteries to life. Together, they have taken basic research based on pure cellulose from algae and developed it to work with the same type of fiber that BillerudKorsnäs often uses to manufacture its packaging material — furthering development for both inexpensive and eco-friendly batteries. The long-term aim is to enable large-scale production and the future use of paper batteries for applications in areas such as smart packaging.
Technology for large-scale production processes
The development work is being carried out by one of Sweden’s foremost research teams under acclaimed Norwegian physicist Maria Strömme, collaborating with BillerudKorsnäs in a completely new form.
“What’s special in this case is the model for collaboration between BillerudKorsnäs and Uppsala University that has resulted in technology adapted to large-scale production processes,” says Lars Sandberg, project manager for innovation at BillerudKorsnäs. “We’re combining the deep theoretical expertise of the researchers with our understanding of innovation and production technology. By successfully creating a joint platform, we can focus our work on the future, on creating an advanced product that can still be produced in an effective way.”
Smart, connected packaging
In the long term, the paper battery opens up possibilities for developing packaging that is both smart and more sustainable. Packaging containing small paper batteries with sensors can be used to trace products through the entire transport chain. This includes, for example, packaging that measures temperature or position in real time and provides information on what is happening with an item during transport.
A paper battery entails many new ways of using packaging and can thus offer exciting opportunities for the packaging industry and BillerudKorsnäs customers concerned with safeguarding quality and reliable delivery. For example, a light sensor along with a BillerudKorsnäs paper battery could provide information on where in the transport chain a product disappeared from its packaging.
With electrodes based on cellulose from wood fiber, the ambition is that in the future, it will be possible to recycle batteries along with their boxes and make them into new boxes or paper batteries.
“The paper battery is a key piece of the puzzle in efforts to produce smart packaging that requires small, sustainable power sources,” says Magnus Wikström, technical director at BillerudKorsnäs. “By enabling this type of sustainable packaging, the work on the paper battery is fully in line with BillerudKorsnäs’ vision of challenging conventional packaging for a sustainable future. Storing energy in paper instead of in lithium batteries, for example, allows for bio-based batteries that can form part of a circular system, which provides major sustainability benefits.”