Engineering 101

Sustainable All-Organic Proton Battery Uses Quinones

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The decline of standard battery performance at low temperatures and the environmental impact of mining the metals to create them is driving the search for sustainable energy storage.

Recently, researchers at Uppsala University have developed an all-organic proton battery that can be charged in a matter of seconds using quinones, which are also used in large scale industrial production of hydrogen peroxide. The Uppsala battery can also be charged and discharged more than 500 times without any significant loss of capacity. Their work has been published in the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie.

The researchers have been able to demonstrate that their battery can be easily charged using a solar cell. Charging can also be accomplished without the aid of the advanced electronics that, for example, lithium batteries require. Another advantage of the battery is that it is unaffected by ambient temperature.

“We have demonstrated that this organic proton battery retains properties such as capacity down to as low as -24°C,” said Christian Strietzel of Uppsala University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

A great many of the batteries manufactured today have a major environmental impact, not least due to the mining of the metals used in them.

“The point of departure for our research has therefore been to develop a battery built from elements commonly found in nature and that can be used to create organic battery materials,” said Strietzel.

For this reason, the research team has chosen quinones as the active material in their battery. These organic carbon compounds are plentiful in nature, among other things occurring in photosynthesis. The characteristic of quinones that researchers have utilized is their ability to absorb or emit hydrogen ions, which of course only contain protons, during charging and discharging.

An acidic aqueous solution has been used as an electrolyte, the vital component that transports ions inside the battery. As well as being environmentally friendly, this also provides a safe battery free from the hazard of explosion or fire.

“There remains a great deal of further development to be done on the battery before it becomes a household item; however, the proton battery we have developed is a large stride towards being able to manufacture sustainable organic batteries in future,” said Strietzel.

Source: Uppsala University

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