Could potassium be making a battery comeback, 83 years after scientists dismissed the element as incompatible with graphite or other carbon electrodes?
The Oregon State University (OSU) has found in a study that K-ion batteries could well be a fine alternative to Li-ion—and scientists there have registered their amazement that the combination has not been reconsidered in more than 80 years.
“For decades, people have assumed that potassium couldn’t work with graphite or other bulk carbon anodes in a battery,” said Xiulei (David) Ji, the lead author of the study and assistant professor of chemistry at the College of Science, exploring the evidence with support from the US Department of Energy (DOE).
But Ji says his team’s new findings show that it can work effectively with graphite or soft carbon in the anode of an electrochemical battery.
“Right now, batteries based on this approach don’t have performance that equals those of lithium-ion batteries, but improvements in technology should narrow the gap,” he said.
“It’s safe to say that the energy density of a potassium-ion battery may never exceed that of lithium-ion batteries. But they may provide a long cycling life, a high power density, a lot lower cost, and be ready to take the advantage of the existing manufacturing processes of carbon anode materials.”
The research could throw the door wide open for new electrochemical energy storage systems that would be much cheaper to manufacture than lithium-ion batteries. Potassium is much more abundant—there is 880 times as much of it in the Earth’s crust as lithium, it is believed—and easily recyclable, unlike lithium.