The proton battery relies on water and a carbon-based electrode instead of lithium. And while the battery is just a small-scale prototype, it does have the potential to be competitive against the lithium-ion batteries currently available.
The really exciting thing about this innovative technology, according to the research team, is that it can be scaled-up and utilized for “medium-scale storage on electricity grids,” pointing specifically to the giant South Australia energy storage project as an example.
Lead researcher Professor John Andrews, a professor at RMIT University told The Guardian, “The working prototype proton battery uses a carbon electrode as a hydrogen store, coupled with a reversible fuel cell to produce electricity. It’s the carbon electrode plus protons from water that gives the proton battery it’s environmental, energy and potential economic edge.”
Basically, during charging, carbon in the electrode bonds with protons generated by splitting water with the help of electrons from the power supply. The protons are released again and pass back through the reversible fuel cell to form water with oxygen from the air to generate power
“Lithium-ion batteries are great but they rely on ultimately scarce and expensive resources,” he said. “Hydro is also a good technology but suitable sites are limited and the cost may be very high. The advantage is we’re going to be storing protons in a carbon-based material, which is abundant, and we are getting protons from water which is readily available.”
According to the research team, this new technology could become commercially available within five to 10 years and has the potential to be competitive with the Tesla Powerwall.
“Future work will now focus on further improving performance and energy density through the use of atomically-thin layered carbon-based materials such as graphene, with the target of a proton battery that is truly competitive with lithium-ion batteries firmly in sight,” Andrews said.
The development of the proton battery was a joint effort by scientists from the School of Engineering (Aerospace, Mechanical, and Manufacturing), RMIT University, Victoria, Australia and the Mechanical Engineering Department, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology, Patiala, Punjab, India.