Discovery about new battery overturns decades of false assumptions

October 6, 2015
This graphic outlines the electrical capacity of a newly developed potassium-ion battery. Credit: Oregon State University

New findings at Oregon State University have overturned a scientific dogma that stood for decades, by showing that potassium can work with graphite in a potassium-ion battery - a discovery that could pose a challenge and sustainable alternative to the widely-used lithium-ion battery.

Lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous in devices all over the world, ranging from cell phones to laptop computers and electric cars. But there may soon be a new type of based on materials that are far more abundant and less costly.

A potassium-ion battery has been shown to be possible. And the last time this possibility was explored was when Herbert Hoover was president, the Great Depression was in full swing and the Charles Lindbergh baby kidnapping was the big news story of the year - 1932.

"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 an assistant professor of chemistry in the College of Science at Oregon State University.

"That assumption is incorrect," Ji said. "It's really shocking that no one ever reported on this issue for 83 years."

The Journal of the American Chemical Society published the findings from this discovery, which was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and done in collaboration with OSU researchers Zelang Jian and Wei Luo. A patent is also pending on the .

The findings are of considerable importance, researchers say, because they open some new alternatives to batteries that can work with well-established and inexpensive graphite as the anode, or high-energy reservoir of electrons. Lithium can do that, as the charge carrier whose ions migrate into the graphite and create an electrical current.

Aside from its ability to work well with a carbon anode, however, lithium is quite rare, found in only 0.0017 percent, by weight, of the Earth's crust. Because of that it's comparatively expensive, and it's difficult to recycle. Researchers have yet to duplicate its performance with less costly and more readily available materials, such as sodium, magnesium, or potassium.

"The cost-related problems with lithium are sufficient that you won't really gain much with economies of scale," Ji said. "With most products, as you make more of them, the cost goes down. With lithium the reverse may be true in the near future. So we have to find alternatives."

That alternative, he said, may be potassium, which is 880 times more abundant in the Earth's crust than lithium. The 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 , 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," he said. "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."

Electrical energy storage in batteries is essential not only for consumer products such as cell phones and computers, but also in transportation, industry power backup, micro-grid storage, and for the wider use of renewable energy.

OSU officials say they are seeking support for further research and to help commercialize the new technology, through the OSU Office of Commercialization and Corporate Development.

Explore further: New cathode material creates possibilities for sodium-ion batteries

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32 comments

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Grallen
3.7 / 5 (6) Oct 06, 2015
Is it really possible that no one retested this for almost a century?

Cheaper batteries are good , I'm sure this tech will find a niche.
shavera
4.2 / 5 (5) Oct 06, 2015
How does Potassium compare to the other Lithium alternatives, like Sodium? That seems to be the more relevant measure than a Potassium to Lithium one.
docile
Oct 06, 2015
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Returners
2 / 5 (8) Oct 06, 2015
"That assumption is incorrect," Ji said. "It's really shocking that no one ever reported on this issue for 83 years."


That's called "Settled Science".

gkam
1.6 / 5 (13) Oct 07, 2015
Nope, it is called "progress".

Science is never settled, it is only in its present form of understanding.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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gkam
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 07, 2015
"This doesn't explain, why the cold fusion experiments from 1927 waited for its re-inventing to 1986 and why they wait for its replication in peer-reviewed journals even today, after nearly ninety years...."
---------------------------------------------

No, nor does it have to. If there were any positive outcomes from all the years of research, by all the folks, we would all be using it.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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docile
Oct 07, 2015
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ProcrastinationAccountNumber3659
1.8 / 5 (5) Oct 07, 2015
@docile:
but these unsuccessful reports are apparently missing in the literature

It is called publication bias. In this case publication bias is for null results. There is discussion on how this is an issue in science and how this should be remedied.

http://www.nature...-1.15787
gkam
1 / 5 (10) Oct 07, 2015
If it works, why aren't we using it? Do not try to tell me it is some world-wide conspiracy. Did you not say anyone can do it now in their kitchens? I was serious when I suggested you DO THAT. I hope it works, but I have very little confidence in it.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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docile
Oct 07, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
gkam
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 07, 2015
docile, do it yourself, if you think it can be done, and stop blaming others for not doing it.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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ProcrastinationAccountNumber3659
2.3 / 5 (6) Oct 07, 2015
@docile: So you talked with everyone to see if they tried it? Otherwise how can you safely say that nobody tried it? Null results frequently are not reported. Are you that convinced that if people tried it they would have seen a positive result?

Also, you know what people do in their kitchens. Chemistry! Except this dude, he was crazy: http://gizmodo.co...-reactor
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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ProcrastinationAccountNumber3659
2.5 / 5 (8) Oct 07, 2015
@docile: your source is just a tad bit biased. If they did finally pin down what was going on that would be cool.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ProcrastinationAccountNumber3659
2.1 / 5 (7) Oct 07, 2015
The thing is if nothing is published it means one of two things. A null result or the research was not done. One of my previous posts had three links, but only one of them was posted. just google "null result publication bias". The fact it violates the scientific method is why it is being discussed in the scientific literature. There are good reasons why it happens and some publications are trying to remedy this.

The article you linked to explained exactly why they lead to null results. Did you read your own link?
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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docile
Oct 07, 2015
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
ProcrastinationAccountNumber3659
2.5 / 5 (8) Oct 07, 2015
I cannot prove a negative...well in this case in any reasonable manner. I just know a lack of published negative results is a problem. I never said it was in this case, just presented it as a possible explanation.

I did not see a link to a published journal article. If they do publish and include negative results it is in a paper that includes positive results and gives a reason for the negative results. This is different from just publishing negative results.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (4) Oct 07, 2015
It would seem likely that if a "successful" experiment was conducted (regardless of accidental or not) and is not replicable, then something was missed in the conducting of the "replicating" experiment.
Just sayin'...
ogg_ogg
not rated yet Oct 07, 2015
FWIW, I worked with both K and Sb graphite intercalation compounds back in the late 70's. Our interest was use as conductors, not batteries, but the area was pretty active, so I doubt the authors claims that it hasn't been investigated. As an aside, I also "missed out" on a Nobel. My literature search on graphite indicated that carbon black from various sources differed significantly in solubility profile, which we now know is (partially) due to some of it being buckyballs. Sure would have been fun to pursue it, and I probably could have...if I had "the right stuff". Ah well...Shoulda woulda coulda...
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.6 / 5 (9) Oct 07, 2015
Nope, it is called "progress".

Science is never settled, it is only in its present form of understanding.
"Most people are able to combine ideas that have consistent thought themes, but psychopaths have great difficulty doing this. Again, this suggests a genetic restriction to what we have called the Juvenile Dictionary. Not only are they using extremely restricted definitions, they cannot, by virtue of the way their brains work, do otherwise. Virtually all of the research on psychopaths reveals an inner world that is banal, sophomoric, and devoid of the color and detail that generally exists in the inner world of normal people. This goes a long way to explain the inconsistencies and contradictions in their speech."

-Because I am george kamburoff, anything I say must be profound.
gkam
1 / 5 (11) Oct 07, 2015
I always thought you could tell psychopaths by their mania and their emotional fixations.
TheGhostofOtto1923
4.6 / 5 (9) Oct 07, 2015
I always thought you could tell psychopaths by their mania and their emotional fixations.
"The World has only one problem, Psychopaths. There are two basic types of Psychopaths, Social and Anti-Social. The essential feature of Psychopaths is a Pervasive, Obssesive- Compulsive desire to force their delusions on others. Psychopaths completely disregard and violate the Rights of others..."

-Your lying, fact-forging, and pretending you know what you dont know are not delusions.

Your pretending that posting your real name somehow gives you the right to do these things is indeed a delusion.

You have no right to try to force this delusion on us.
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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gkam
1.3 / 5 (12) Oct 07, 2015
" I predicted here, that the cold fusion is working before years already. Nobody did believe me, because the physicists use different methodology, which is reliable for some type of phenomena (deterministic ones driven with transverse waves), but highly misleading for another ones (emergent ones driven with longitudinal waves and multiparticle systems)."
-------------------------------

Well gosh, . . but the question is: Do your "longitudinal waves" produce usable energy?
docile
Oct 07, 2015
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dedereu
not rated yet Oct 11, 2015
And also similar the mystery of ball lightning also accidental may be related to cold fusion?
Cold fusion is not easily reproduced and no possibility to use cold fusion to heat my house cheaply with no pollution.
Thanks to docile for theses informations.
Anything is possible, even the elusive dark matter giving very irreproducible results as function of its presence or not, in ball lighning or cold fusion !!
It is more easy to miss a big discovery than to discover, like 30 years of missed buckyballs by many studies !!

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