Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have developed a proton battery based on abundant organic materials. Though lithium-ion batteries are expected to remain the favored solution for energy storage, the potential for alternate battery types that don’t rely on rare, expensive, or environmentally problematic materials remains intriguing.
“A great many of the batteries manufactured today have a major environmental impact, not least due to the mining of the metals used in them,” said Christian Strietzel, a PhD student in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Nanotechnology and Functional Materials at Uppsala. “The point of departure for our research has therefore been to develop a battery built from elements commonly found in nature and that can be used to create organic battery materials.”
The first proton battery was developed at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 2018. It utilized a carbon electrode to perform a reversible process of splitting water to store energy as solid-state hydrogen. The proton battery developed by the team at Uppsala uses two organic molecule groups – quinones and thiophenes – as electrode materials, with an acidic aqueous solution as the electrolyte. The battery can be charged at a constant voltage, and reached its full capacity of 60 milliamp-hours per gram within 100 seconds. After 500 cycles, the battery retained 85% of its initial performance, and was shown to retain these favorable characteristics at temperatures down to -24 C.
“There remains a great deal of further development to be done on the battery before it becomes a household item,” says Striezel. “However, he proton battery we have developed is a large stride towards being able to manufacture sustainable organic batteries in future.”
The research was published in an all-organic proton battery energized for sustainable energy storage.