Bio-Based Materials for Energy Storage

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Bio-based materials are emerging as a promising frontier in energy storage, offering sustainable and high-performing alternatives to conventional materials derived from fossil fuels or mined resources. These materials, sourced from renewable biomass such as plants, algae, and even certain bacteria, are being explored for use in various energy storage devices, including batteries, supercapacitors, and fuel cells. They offer a compelling solution to reduce the environmental impact of energy storage technologies, enabling a more sustainable and circular energy ecosystem.

Impact on climate action

Bio-Based Materials for Energy Storage revolutionize climate action by reducing reliance on fossil fuels. Their renewable nature and low environmental footprint mitigate carbon emissions. They facilitate the transition to sustainable energy grids, fostering a greener future. This innovation accelerates the shift towards a more climate-resilient economy.


  • Electrochemistry and Material Science: Bio-based materials for energy storage rely on principles of electrochemistry and material science. This involves understanding how electrons flow in electrochemical reactions and tailoring the properties of bio-based materials to facilitate efficient energy storage and release.
  • Biopolymer Modification and Electrode Fabrication: Natural polymers extracted from biomass, such as cellulose, lignin, and chitin, are often modified or functionalized to enhance their electrochemical properties. They are then processed into electrodes, which are essential components of energy storage devices.
  • Electrolyte Development: Bio-based electrolytes, the conductive medium that facilitates ion transport within energy storage devices, are being developed using natural materials like plant-based ionic liquids or bio-derived salts.
  • Bio-Inspired Design: Researchers are drawing inspiration from biological systems, such as the energy storage mechanisms in plants and animals, to develop innovative bio-based energy storage devices.

TRL : 3-7 (depending on the specific material and application)

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Bio-Based Electrodes: Developing bio-based electrodes with high surface area, good electrical conductivity, and electrochemical stability for use in batteries and supercapacitors.
  • Bio-Based Electrolytes: Creating electrolytes using bio-derived solvents and salts that offer high ionic conductivity, wide electrochemical windows, and improved safety compared to conventional electrolytes.
  • Bio-Based Separators: Designing bio-based separators, which are crucial for preventing short circuits in batteries, using materials like cellulose or chitosan with good mechanical strength and ionic permeability.
  • Redox-Active Biomolecules: Utilizing redox-active biomolecules, such as enzymes or proteins, as active materials in energy storage devices. These biomolecules can facilitate electron transfer reactions, contributing to energy storage and release.
  • Flow Batteries with Bio-Based Components: Incorporating bio-based materials into flow batteries, which are large-scale energy storage systems that utilize liquid electrolytes. This includes using bio-based redox-active molecules in the electrolytes or bio-based membranes for separating the electrolytes.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Electrochemical Bio-Based Materials
  • Functionalized Biopolymer Electrodes
  • Sustainable Electrolyte Solutions
  • Biomimetic Energy Storage Systems
  • Green Electrode Fabrication Techniques
  • Bio-Inspired Energy Storage Designs
  • Renewable Biomass Utilization in Batteries
  • Eco-Friendly Electrolyte Development
  • Biopolymer-Based Separator Innovation
  • Redox-Active Biomolecule Integration
  • Bio-Based Flow Battery Components
  • Lignin-Based Battery Materials
  • Cellulose-Derived Electronic Materials
  • Bio-Electrolyte Safety Enhancement
  • Sustainable Energy Storage Solutions
  • Wood-Derived Battery Technologies
  • Biomass-Based Electrode Development
  • Cellulose Nanofibril Energy Storage

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Stora Enso:
    • Technology Focus: Stora Enso is a leading provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden constructions, and paper. In the context of bio-based materials for energy storage, they might be exploring innovative ways to utilize sustainable materials in batteries, capacitors, or other energy storage devices.
    • Uniqueness: Stora Enso’s uniqueness lies in its extensive experience and expertise in sustainable forestry and biomaterials. They likely leverage their deep knowledge of renewable resources to develop bio-based materials with unique properties suitable for energy storage applications.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions could target a wide range of industries, including automotive, electronics, renewable energy, and consumer electronics, where there’s a growing demand for environmentally friendly energy storage solutions.
  2. Cellulose Lab:
    • Technology Focus: Cellulose Lab is likely dedicated to researching and developing advanced materials derived from cellulose, a renewable biopolymer found in plants. They might be focused on utilizing cellulose-based materials for energy storage applications, such as supercapacitors, batteries, or fuel cells.
    • Uniqueness: Cellulose Lab stands out for its specialized focus on cellulose-based materials, which offer advantages such as abundance, biodegradability, and low environmental impact. Their research and innovations could lead to bio-based energy storage solutions with unique performance characteristics.
    • End-User Segments: Their target segments may include industries seeking sustainable alternatives for energy storage, such as electronics, automotive, aerospace, and renewable energy.
  3. Cambium Biomaterials:
    • Technology Focus: Cambium Biomaterials likely specializes in developing biomaterials derived from plant cambium, the tissue responsible for growth in trees and woody plants. They might be exploring the use of cambium-based materials for energy storage applications, leveraging their unique properties and sustainability.
    • Uniqueness: Cambium Biomaterials could be unique in its focus on cambium-derived materials, which offer advantages such as renewability, scalability, and low environmental impact. Their innovations could lead to bio-based energy storage solutions with novel properties and applications.
    • End-User Segments: Their solutions might target industries looking for sustainable alternatives in energy storage, including electronics, transportation, renewable energy, and grid storage.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Aalto University (Finland):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Aalto University are focusing on developing bio-based materials for energy storage applications, such as supercapacitors and batteries. They are exploring novel synthesis methods and functionalization techniques to improve the electrical conductivity and energy storage capacity of bio-based materials.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Aalto University’s approach involves the integration of bio-based materials derived from renewable sources, such as lignin and cellulose, into energy storage devices. They are investigating the structural and chemical properties of these materials to optimize their performance and durability in demanding applications.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at Aalto University have potential applications in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-scale energy storage systems. By replacing conventional electrode materials with bio-based alternatives, these energy storage devices can become more sustainable and environmentally friendly.
  2. Empa (Switzerland):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at Empa are focusing on the development of bio-based materials for energy storage, with a particular emphasis on redox flow batteries (RFBs). They are exploring new electrode materials and electrolytes derived from biomass and waste streams to improve the efficiency and scalability of RFBs.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Empa’s research involves a multidisciplinary approach, combining expertise in materials science, electrochemistry, and sustainability to design bio-based materials for energy storage applications. They are investigating the electrochemical properties and stability of these materials under different operating conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at Empa have potential applications in stationary energy storage systems, renewable energy integration, and smart grid management. By utilizing sustainable feedstocks, such as agricultural residues and biowaste, these energy storage devices can contribute to the transition towards a low-carbon energy future.
  3. University of Maryland (USA):
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Maryland are focusing on developing bio-based materials for energy storage applications, including lithium-ion batteries and supercapacitors. They are investigating the use of natural polymers and carbonaceous materials derived from biomass as electrode materials and conductive additives.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Maryland’s research integrates principles of materials chemistry, nanotechnology, and bioengineering to design bio-based materials with tailored properties for energy storage. They are exploring the scalability and cost-effectiveness of these materials for large-scale deployment.
    • End-use Applications: The bio-based materials developed at the University of Maryland have potential applications in portable electronics, electric vehicles, and grid-scale energy storage systems. By harnessing the abundant and renewable resources provided by nature, these energy storage devices can help reduce the environmental impact of energy consumption and mitigate climate change.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

While commercial implementation of bio-based materials in energy storage is still limited, there are some promising examples:

  • Lignin-Based Battery Components: Stora Enso has partnered with battery manufacturers to pilot the use of lignin-based carbon materials in lithium-ion batteries. This demonstrates the potential for incorporating bio-based materials into existing battery technologies.
  • Bio-Based Supercapacitors: Some companies are developing and commercializing supercapacitors that utilize bio-based materials, such as activated carbon derived from biomass, for energy storage.