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Breakthrough in Energy Storage: The Oxygen-Ion Battery, a Promising New Invention

Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous in today’s world, powering everything from smartphones to electric cars. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the optimal solution for all applications. Researchers at TU Wien have recently made a breakthrough by creating an oxygen-ion battery that offers several key advantages. While it may not provide quite as high energy densities as lithium-ion batteries, its storage capacity does not irreversibly decrease over time. Instead, it can be regenerated, potentially allowing for an exceptionally long lifespan.

Furthermore, oxygen-ion batteries can be manufactured without the use of rare elements and are composed of non-flammable materials. A patent application for this innovative battery concept has already been submitted in collaboration with partners from Spain. The oxygen-ion battery holds great potential as a viable option for large-scale energy storage systems, such as those designed to store electricity generated from renewable sources.

Ceramic materials as a new solution

Alexander Schmid from the Institute for Chemical Technologies and Analytics at TU Wien explains that their team has been working with ceramic materials suitable for fuel cells for a considerable period of time, which led them to explore the possibility of utilizing these materials to create a battery.

The ceramic materials studied by the TU Wien researchers are capable of absorbing and releasing doubly negatively charged oxygen ions. Upon application of an electric voltage, the oxygen ions migrate from one ceramic material to another, producing electric current as they move back and forth.

Prof. Jürgen Fleig notes that the basic principle behind this battery is similar to that of lithium-ion batteries, but the ceramic materials have some significant advantages. For one, ceramics are non-flammable, thus mitigating the risk of fire accidents that are common with lithium-ion batteries. Additionally, there is no need for rare elements that are costly or difficult to extract in an eco-friendly manner.

Tobias Huber adds that the use of ceramic materials is highly beneficial since they can be easily modified. Certain elements that are hard to obtain can be replaced with others without much difficulty. The current battery prototype employs lanthanum, which is not an extremely rare element but not exactly common either. Nevertheless, the researchers aim to replace it with a cheaper alternative, and studies to this effect are already underway. Notably, cobalt and nickel, which are found in many batteries, are absent in this oxygen-ion battery design.

High life span

Alexander Schmid emphasizes that the new battery technology’s most significant advantage is its potential longevity. In many batteries, charge carriers reach a point where they can no longer move, rendering them unusable for electricity generation, which ultimately leads to a reduction in the battery’s capacity. This issue can become severe after several charging cycles.

The oxygen-ion battery, on the other hand, can be regenerated effortlessly. If the battery loses oxygen due to side reactions, the loss can be easily compensated for by taking in oxygen from the surrounding air.

It’s worth noting that the new battery design is not intended for smartphones or electric cars, as it only achieves approximately one-third of the energy density of lithium-ion batteries and operates at temperatures ranging from 200 to 400 °C. However, the technology is incredibly promising for energy storage.

According to Alexander Schmid, if someone requires a large energy storage unit for temporarily storing wind or solar energy, the oxygen-ion battery could be an excellent solution. When constructing an entire building full of energy storage modules, the lower energy density and increased operating temperature become less critical. Instead, the battery’s long service life, the ability to mass-produce the materials without rare elements, and the absence of fire hazards become more important advantages.

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