OSU Charges Grid Energy Storage Hopes

Battery technology is getting a boost thanks to scientists at Oregon State University. OSU College of Science researchers recently demonstrated that hydronium ions could be reversibly stored in a new type of battery made with a solid crystalline organic material called perylenetetracarboxylic dianhydridem, or PTCDA.

Hydronium, as it happens, is just a positively charged water molecule parading about with an extra proton, or H3O+ for short. According to a recent OSU press release, this new type of battery is the first of its kind to use only hydronium as the charge carrier. This research might someday make big changes in the way grid power can be stored at stationary locations.

Mining metals and making them into batteries involves a whole heap… well, series of heaps really… of energy intensive processing. Not many nonmetal cations had been considered for batteries in this field of research.

The new battery created by OSU’s Department of Chemistry uses plain-old dilute sulfuric acid as an electrolyte. “It doesn’t use lithium or sodium or potassium to carry the charge, and just uses acid as the electrolyte. There’s a huge natural abundance of acid so it’s highly renewable and sustainable,” said Xiulei Ji, assistant professor of chemistry at OSU.

The electrode material, PTCDA, also showed promising results. “Organic solids are not typically contemplated as crystalline electrode materials, but many are very crystalline, arranged in a very ordered structure,” Ji said. “This PTCDA material has a lot of internal space between its molecule constituents so it provides an opportunity for storing big ions and good capacity.”

“This may provide a paradigm-shifting opportunity for more sustainable batteries,” Ji continued. This type of battery is unlikely to power electric cars, “But it does provide an opportunity for battery researchers to go in a new direction as they look for new alternatives for energy storage, particularly for stationary grid storage.”

By Matthew Hunt

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