The world's first rechargeable proton battery has been created and demonstrated by a team of researchers in Australia. The current battery, which is now just a prototype to prove that the mechanism works, is a big step towards a more environmentally sound energy storage system.
Unlike current lithium-ion designs that use rare materials, the prototype battery uses carbon and water to store electrical charge. The proof-of-concept was created by a team at the RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, as announced by the university on social media on Wednesday, March 7.
"Carbon, which is the primary resource used in our proton battery, is abundant and cheap compared to both metal hydrogen-storage alloys and the lithium needed for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries," lead researcher Professor John Andrews explained to Fairfax Media via The Age Australia.
With the world now rapidly moving towards electric-based transportation, there is now a need to come up with rechargeable batteries that are more environment-friendly to produce and dispose of.
"Our latest advance is a crucial step towards cheap, sustainable proton batteries that can help meet our future energy needs without further damaging our already fragile environment," Andrews noted.
Andrews and his team are now working to improve the capacity of the proton battery, which works by having the carbon at the battery terminals taking up the protons released when the water is split into Hydrogen and Oxygen ions during charging.
During discharge, the positively-charged Hydrogen atoms, which are basically protons in this state, return to a reversible fuel cell to combine with oxygen from the surrounding air to re-form into water. The entire process produces no emissions, too.
Professor Andrews estimates that the proton battery could be commercially viable within five to ten years, and has the potential to compete with the Tesla Powerwall or even bigger applications.