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Assumption for Batteries Proven False After Decades

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 02:36PM

Currently lithium-ion batteries dominate when it comes to energy storage because of their great energy density, but the search is on for alternatives as lithium is not exactly a common material. One possible replacement is potassium, but it has not been seriously investigated since 1932 because it was assumed it did not work with the bulk carbon used for anodes. Researchers at Oregon State University decided to test that assumption and found it is false, opening the door to cheaper potassium-ion batteries.

By weight lithium represents just 0.0017% of the Earth's crust, which makes it fairly rare, and therefore somewhat expensive. It is also difficult to recycle, which again adds to its cost compared to other, more accessible materials, such as potassium. It is 880 times more abundant in the crust, which would significantly reduce costs, if it replaced lithium. For the past 83 years though it was believed that potassium would not work with the carbon-based anodes found in batteries, but now we know it can.

The initial potassium-ion batteries the researchers built do not have the performance of modern lithium-ion batteries, but with some improvements it should be possible to bring them up to par. As these batteries would be able to utilize much of the same manufacturing infrastructure for producing carbon anode materials, they should be able to be made at low cost and find homes in phones, computers, cars, and much more.

Source: Oregon State University

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