Finnish pulp and paper producer Stora Enso is investing €10m (£8.9m) to build a pilot facility to produce bio-based carbon materials for energy storage.

Stora Enso said that the carbon materials are based on lignin. The wood-based carbon, as per the company, could be used as a component in batteries which can power consumer electronics, automotive industry and large-scale energy storage systems.

The pilot plant will be located at the company’s Sunila Mill in Finland. Investing in carbon materials for energy storage is expected to improve the company’s opportunities of replacing fossil-based and mined raw materials as well as connecting sustainable materials with the ongoing technology innovations.

Lignin is one of the main building blocks of a tree. The company produces lignin at its Sunila Mill and is used as a replacement of fossil-based components in phenols for adhesives. The investment will help the company to process lignin into a carbon intermediate for electrode materials.

Lignin will be converted into hard carbon anode materials that can be used in lithium-ion batteries with properties similar to graphite. Such batteries are used in mobile phones and similar portable devices, power tools, electric vehicles, in industrial applications, in stationary energy storage and grid units, etc.

Stora Enso to begin construction on pilot facility at the end of 2019

The pilot facility’s construction is expected to start at the end of this year and could be completed by early 2021. Stora Enso will decide on the commercialisation after evaluating the results from the pilot-scale production, the company noted.

Stora Enso’s Biomaterials division executive vice president Markus Mannström said: “This investment is another step on our transformation journey to explore new ways to replace fossil-based, scarce and high-cost materials with renewable alternatives. Using wood-based lignin for technical carbon material offers an exciting opportunity.

“With the pilot facility we will continue to build on our long-term work in extracting lignin from biomass to create more value from it. We will target the rapidly growing battery market in which companies are looking for high-quality, attractively priced and sustainable materials.”