They promise to be opening a new path that can reshape the way in which energy is obtained for homes, vehicles and devices, and it is no wonder. For the first time, the scientific community has been able to operate in optimal conditions a rechargeable proton battery that is postulated as an alternative for storing energy obtained from renewable sources. The competitive advantages are not few.
More environmentally friendly, cheaper and with higher capacity than the lithium ion batteries that dominate the market today. These are some of the endorsements of this innovation developed by experts from the Australian university RMIT. And the parents of the child see enormous potential. Possible applications range from storage in homes with photovoltaic solar installations, to its use for medium-scale electrical networks or for powering electric vehicles.
” It is a crucial advance in cheap and sustainable proton batteries, which can help us address our future power needs without further damaging our environment . ” This is assured by John Andrews, leader of this project, which has allowed the development of a working prototype that is basically a hybrid between a hydrogen fuel cell and a battery system. “It combines the advantages of both systems” , say the experts in an article published in Science Direct.
With the combination as a basis, a reversible proton battery emerges consisting of a PEM type fuel cell. It integrates a solid state electrode that stores hydrogen, not in the form of a gas, but in an atomic form. The operation is as follows. During charging, the protons produced by the water in the fuel cell are conducted through the cell membrane. Thus, and with the help of the electrons supplied by the applied voltage, the protons are directly bonded with the storage material without producing gas. When the system supplies electricity, the process is simply reversed.
“Carbon, which is the main resource of our proton battery, is abundant and cheap” , emphasize the experts on this idea. In addition, they also highlight that its reversible battery far exceeds conventional hydrogen systems in efficiency, and is also comparable to lithium batteries.
Beyond the evaluations, the tests carried out on the prototype confirm its creators. Despite its small scale (it only has 5.5 square centimeters of active surface), the system does not disappoint. So much so, that in tests it has been shown to be capable of storing as much energy per unit mass as a lithium-ion battery currently on the market. In addition, as they suggest from this Australian university, the results today would be even better, since this innovative reversible battery has already been optimized.
And while the work done so far is progress, the team is not willing to stop. In fact, you are already at work with the next step. In the short term, this will consist of increasing current density during charging and discharging, conducting multi-cycle tests, and analyzing hydrogen and carbon reactions. The use of thin atomic layers based on materials as promising as graphene is also in the focus of these experts who, in the long run, want their proton battery to be able to compete head-to-head with lithium ion batteries.