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Potassium-ion battery hopes revived after over 80 years

by Mark Tyson on 7 October 2015, 17:01

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Researchers at Oregon State University (OSU) have discovered a sustainable alternative to the ubiquitous Lithium-ion battery. Potassium-ion batteries, thought to be a technological dead-end for the last 83 years, could be made from much more abundant chemical components at cheaper prices.

The last time the possibility of K-ion batteries was looked into was 1932 and the scientists were obviously unsuccessful at that time. "For decades, people have assumed that potassium couldn’t work with graphite or other bulk carbon anodes in a battery," said Xiulei Ji, assistant professor of chemistry at OSU. "That assumption is incorrect," asserts Ji. "It's really shocking that no one ever reported on this issue for 83 years."

The researchers say their new success with K-ion batteries could be very important to the industry as they can work with well-established and inexpensive graphite as the anode. Lithium is a rare element, found in just 0.0017 percent of the earth's crust, by weight, and it is difficult to recycle. Potassium is 880 times more common.

Currently potassium ion batteries don't offer the energy density of Li-ion batteries, and the scientists don't think potassium will ever be able to power cells better than lithium. However with development the performance should get close to lithium technology batteries with a long cycling life, a high power density, plus a lot lower costs.

The OSU team are looking to do further research and at commercialisation options. It is envisaged that K-ion batteries will be used, like Li-ion batteries in devices such as smartphones and computers, but also in transportation, industry power backup, and micro-grid storage for home generated renewable energy.



HEXUS Forums :: 14 Comments

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For anyone interested, because it took two seconds to find the link to the paper but it wasn't posted here, here's the JACS page for it.

pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.5b06809

I don't have access to the paper (yet), but the gist of it is that the intercalation of potassium into graphitic sheets has been achieved through synthesis of soft carbon electrodes. Or at least the diagram suggests graphitic, but the paper specifies that these soft carbon structures are non-graphitic. The abstract doesn't exactly say how those soft carbon structures are formed, or how they are characterized, which will be the absolute most important aspect when it comes to cycling and energy density, as well as scale up and commercialization. So it sounds as if the research team is hiding the interesting stuff behind a wall and leading with a click-batey title to get interest. Also the fact that OSU points out Potassium is 880 times more abundant is pretty useless, we're not running out of lithium soon and on the whole it's not that expensive. It's again another headline to catch the attention of people not focusing on the details.
Shibboleth is playing up so I can't check from here, will have a look tomorrow.
b1candy
Also the fact that OSU points out Potassium is 880 times more abundant is pretty useless, we're not running out of lithium soon and on the whole it's not that expensive. It's again another headline to catch the attention of people not focusing on the details.
From my pretty uninformed level (mere user of battery tech) I thought that the big driver for alternatives to Lithium was that the majority of Lithium production is centered around Bolivia and Chile. So all that's needed is a natural disaster or revolution and Lithium will get scarcer and therefore a lot more expensive. In which case a battery that's based on something more easily found around the world would be a great “Plan B”.

Actually would a KIon battery be less susceptible to bursting into flames than a Lion one? My (high school) chemistry ain't good enough to be sure….
b1candy
For anyone interested, because it took two seconds to find the link to the paper but it wasn't posted here, here's the JACS page for it.

pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/jacs.5b06809

I don't have access to the paper (yet), but the gist of it is that the intercalation of potassium into graphitic sheets has been achieved through synthesis of soft carbon electrodes. Or at least the diagram suggests graphitic, but the paper specifies that these soft carbon structures are non-graphitic. The abstract doesn't exactly say how those soft carbon structures are formed, or how they are characterized, which will be the absolute most important aspect when it comes to cycling and energy density, as well as scale up and commercialization. So it sounds as if the research team is hiding the interesting stuff behind a wall and leading with a click-batey title to get interest. Also the fact that OSU points out Potassium is 880 times more abundant is pretty useless, we're not running out of lithium soon and on the whole it's not that expensive. It's again another headline to catch the attention of people not focusing on the details.

Hey Mate don't you know sci-hub?
crossy
Actually would a KIon battery be less susceptible to bursting into flames than a Lion one? My (high school) chemistry ain't good enough to be sure….

I don't know a huge amount about batteries, but as Potassium shares a group with Lithium (Group 1) and is further down, it is MORE reactive. Therefore I would assume if the batteries are manufactured similarly that it would be more unstable than Li-ion (but probably not a great amount).