Researchers Build Proton Battery as a Cost-Effective Energy Storage Alternative

The battery operates by splitting water molecules while charging to generate protons to bond with the carbon electrode


RMIT University has secured international patents for the development of the proton battery, which holds the potential to power homes, vehicles, and devices, offering an eco-friendly alternative to conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Operating on a carbon electrode that stores hydrogen derived from water splitting, the researchers said their proton battery doubles the energy capacity of previously reported electrochemical hydrogen storage systems.

During the experiments, the team successfully powered small fans and lights for several minutes, showcasing the real-world applicability of the battery.

One of the key advantages of the proton battery lies in its sustainable design, as all components and materials can be rejuvenated, reused, or recycled, avoiding any end-of-life environmental concerns.

Furthermore, the team claimed that the battery’s storage capacity of 2.2 wt% (percentage by weight) hydrogen in its carbon electrode already rivals commercially available lithium-ion batteries while being less resource intensive.

The dominance of lithium-ion batteries in the energy storage landscape has posed supply chain challenges due to the concentration of lithium reserves in a few countries and the increasing scarcity and cost of metals like cobalt, essential for these batteries.

In contrast, the team pointed out that the proton battery’s main resource, carbon, is abundant, available worldwide, and relatively inexpensive.

How the Proton Battery Works

The proton battery operates by splitting water molecules during the charging process to generate protons, which bond to the carbon electrode.

This approach eliminates the energy losses associated with storing hydrogen gas at high pressure and splitting the gas molecules again in fuel cells during discharge.

Instead, when the battery discharges, protons are released from the carbon electrode and combined with oxygen from the air to generate power, resulting in significantly lower losses compared to conventional hydrogen systems.

With recent design enhancements that enhance electrochemical reactions within the battery, the research team has achieved satisfactory performance gains.

The team mentioned that the collaborative effort between RMIT University and Italian-based international automotive component supplier Eldor Corporation has further fuelled progress.

The ongoing two-year research collaboration aims to develop and prototype the proton battery, moving towards kilowatt and, eventually, megawatt-scale storage solutions for domestic and commercial applications.

The work of the RMIT team on the proton battery has been supported by peer-reviewed research and government funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and the Victorian Government through a research partnerships grant.

Recently a team of researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology has taken a novel approach, utilizing aluminum foil to create solid-state batteries with increased energy density and stability compared to the widely used lithium-ion technology.

In another development, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Madras) said that all-organic redox flow batteries could achieve enhanced energy density, stability, and solubility by introducing pyrylium salt into the mix.

Image Credit: RMIT University


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