Researchers outline the current state of potassium-ion battery technology

**Researchers outline the current state of potassium-ion battery technology
Opportunities and challenges of the PIB. (A) Comparison of LIB, SIB, and PIB in terms of energy density. (B) Abundance of lithium, sodium, and potassium metal in Earth’s crust (wt %). (C) Stokes radius of Li+, Na+, and K+ in PC. (D) Number of publications on PIBs according to Google Scholar (as of January 2019). (E) Summary of challenges and their relationships for the PIB. Credit: Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7412

A trio of researchers with the University of Wollongong, in Australia, has published an outline of the current state of potassium-ion battery technology. In their Review piece published in the journal Science Advances, Wenchao Zhang, Yajie Liu, and Zaiping Guo highlight the current roadblocks that are preventing widespread use of the battery technology and possible workarounds for them.

Lithium-ion batteries have proven to be very useful, particularly in recent times as they are used to power a wide range of devices—from smartphones to electric cars. But lithium is rather rare, which means costs for it is going to go up as supplies tighten. For that reason, scientists have been searching for an alternative. One alternative that has been getting a lot of attention of late is potassium-ion—it is plentiful and cheap. But it also has five main roadblocks, the researchers note.

The first roadblock is low diffusion, which means the potassium ions move slowly through a solid electrode. The researchers suggest that advances in nanomaterials and nanostructures may lead to ways to solve this problem.

The second roadblock has to do with the changes in volume that potassium undergoes as it first accepts a charge and then as it releases it. Repeated cycles lead to breakdown of the material, which results in the development of dead areas and ultimately, battery failure. Possible workarounds include using nanoparticle clusters.

The third problem involves the side reactions that take place that can lead to degradation. The researchers expect that additives will soon be found to prevent them.

The fourth problem is the growth of dendrites that can lead to short circuits. Again, the researchers suggest that the introduction of the right solvents should be able to prevent them from occurring.

And finally, the fifth problem is poor heat dissipation, which can result in very hot batteries or even thermal runaway. The researchers suggest that study of electrode materials, cell configuration and electrolytes should at some point lead to a way to solve the problem.

The researchers conclude by suggesting that the problems inherent with using potassium in batteries do not appear to be insurmountable, but acknowledge that it could take as long as 20 years to figure them all out.

Explore further

Sodium- and potassium-based batteries could be key for smart grid of the future

More information: Wenchao Zhang et al. Approaching high-performance potassium-ion batteries via advanced design strategies and engineering, Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aav7412
Journal information: Science Advances

© 2019 Science X Network

Citation: Researchers outline the current state of potassium-ion battery technology (2019, May 13) retrieved 22 September 2019 from
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May 13, 2019
What's the point of this battery, those are 5 major reasons not to invest in this battery especially the last one with possible "Thermal runaway". Come on we don't want something like lithium ion batteries.

There are better technologies than this without the major drawback mentioned above.

May 13, 2019
What's the point of this battery,

The point is: it would be very cheap.
While lithium is OK for cars potassium would be great for huge (grid-scale) battery systems.

Some issues are minor in large scale applications (e.g. thermal runaway is only really an issue when you draw a lot of power from or pump a lot of power into a small-ish system. With a grid-scale battery the load on each cell during charge/discharge times is rather tame.

There are other battery types vying for this application, but they have their own problems. Research should be done in all directions because it's impossible to say which one will pan out first.

May 13, 2019
thermal runaway is only really an issue ...

It's also an issue in fault conditions where the battery gets damaged, such as in a fire inside the battery facility. Thermal runaway quickly makes bad things much worse - in lithium batteries it effectively prevents firefighters from doing much anything until the whole battery has burned down. It makes battery fires spread at an accelerating rate once they start, so there's only a short window where you could do anything before it's too late.

May 14, 2019
e3 & E, please do not take this as a criticism but an explanation, from my POV.
As to "What's the point of this battery?"

Both your comments list perfectly valid reasons to be skeptical of the eventual value for the tech described in this article.

However, there is no such thing as the perfect technology. & each variation & conformation of tech has it's faults & weaknesses.

"Let a hundred flowers bloom & a hundred schools of thought contend."

Good Conservative Capitalist common sense. You know? That whole Free Enterprise, Civil Liberty. Civic Virtue & Social Responsibility.

All those Patriotic Virtues that are now illegal under the present fascist regime of gaulieter trumppled.

This tech may fail to produce energy storage at a competitive price.
Perhaps maybe, under very limited circumstances, it may still prove useful when competing battery systems fail?

& who knows what accidental discovery can yet come out of disappointment?

May 14, 2019
Really my only problem is truly with the "Thermal runaway" that is just not cool, pun intended ;)

Seriously my concern after just getting rid of my Galaxy S8 cause it was gonna catch on fire if I didn't notice a strange smell when it was plugged into the charger. So yeah close to home and yeah any "replacement" for lithium ion can't have "Thermal runaway", just not okay.

BTW that smell I noticed happened within about 2 minutes of charging it and I burnt myself grabbing the phone to remove the usb plug and it discoloured the table it was on.

May 14, 2019
I'm willing to pay a bit more for a non-explody battery thank you very much and no tech should be explored where thermal runaway is easily achieved.

May 14, 2019
"and no tech should be explored where thermal runaway is easily achieved."

"Bethe Phoenix Cycle"
Whoops! There goes the nuclear energy industry.
You will be hearing quarrelsome noises from ponyboy & his/her/its death cilt of the atomic priesthood,

& that are you smoking around those petrol pimps? I'm sure that putin & the saudis will disapprove of such careless behavior.
Well, unless they have been selling commodities short again?

May 15, 2019
Not sure where the nuclear energy industry plays into battery tech, one is generation the other is storage... I'm talking about storage not generation.

If your talking about generating electricity then MSR all the way... live in Canada, with all the overcast, rain, snow and forests (which cast shadows on solar panels) the only truly viable solutions for this country is geothermal, hydro electric, wind (mostly on the coasts and mountains, or the prairies) and Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). Solar is not a solution for Canada it is just too problematic, and anyway solar is only used to recover the loss of transmission from the power companies... they love it cause they recover their losses for free (or should I say tax payer money but not their profit margins)

May 15, 2019
e3, I agree with your assess,ent of energy production, storage & distribution,
For your specific latitude, North & South.

Maybe these researchers will get Potassium-ion storage to a useful technology.
I suspect it will turn out to be of limited cost-effective.
When the local conditions ruin or prove ruinously costly for other competing methods of storing & distributing power.

Sometimes there are no better choices than gritting your teeth & using what is available.

While you're chopping wood? My advice is to try & avoid also chopping your feet off.

As for the Nukes?
Well, e3, you made the point...
"and no tech should be explored where thermal runaway is easily achieved."

That ain't cotton candy being kept behind reactor lead walls!
Those ain't swimming pools glowing soft blue night-lights.

You want to see what "thermal runaway" can do? Just let those pools run dry!

May 15, 2019
However, there is no such thing as the perfect technology. & each variation & conformation of tech has it's faults & weaknesses.

One does not necessarily need to use batteries to store energy. If you explore the field a little wider, you can spend your money and time much better by a) avoiding the need for storage by using generation technology that is controllable and dispatchable, b) using the non-dispatchable sources of energy to convert CO2 into fuels instead.

Batteries are problematic not only where they are dangerous, but more importantly because they're so expensive and bulky and wear down relatively quickly. Simply producing enough of them is a gargantuan undertaking that exhausts the whole global supply chain for raw materials because in the end they store so little energy per unit.

May 15, 2019
To put things into perspective, the largest battery systems developed today measure in megawatt-hours.

The energy demand of a small nation of some few million people already measures in the gigawatts, so you need 1000x the size of a battery or batteries to provide energy on a timescale of hours. 200,000x for a time scale of weeks, and 1,000,000 times the batteries to reach energy storage on the scale of months. Approximately.

And that's just one small country. It becomes apparent very quickly that the whole world cannot produce enough batteries to supply all the nations. Soon enough the whole production capacity will be consumed simply to replace the batteries already made when they grow old.

May 15, 2019
Abu Dhabi just built the world's largest battery system with a capacity of 648 MWh. That's 0.65 GWh.

It can substitute for a common 1 GW nuclear power plant for approximately 40 minutes.

In comparison, a pumped hydroelectric storage site such as the Dinorwig Power Station can provide 11 GWh when full, and even that is ultimately quite small in terms of the whole grid system.

May 16, 2019
E, you are making some very good points. However, you are overlooking Human nature.

Why batteries? The users are willing to pay for the simplicity & ease of using batteries.
In general, people prefer the personal control of usage.
When they want it, where they want it.
& not give a rat's ass as to the environmental consequences of being selfish,

Kinda like firearms...

You really don't need to think about what you are doing or intend to do.
Just load in a new cartridge or battery & you are good to go!

E, those other methods of power storage you mention, take experienced, trained personnel & organization. From original development & investment to distribution & maintenance.

Of course there is always Our Beloved Leaders choice of the global atomic-fascist police state.

May 16, 2019
The users are willing to pay for the simplicity & ease of using batteries.

Some users - those who can afford it. Of course we're not talking about small appliances here, where batteries are already well established because they fit the purpose. We're talking about large scale applications. In things like cars, charging and safety, also weight/cost/longevity, are issues. On the grid the main issue is the additional cost on the end customer and the sheer size of the systems.

In other news; Tesla is investigating spontaneous combustion in its electric cars which happened while charging:


E, those other methods of power storage you mention, take experienced, trained personnel & organization. From original development & investment to distribution & maintenance.

When talking of grid scale batteries, it's not really that different.

May 16, 2019
For example, one Tesla Megafactory can supply continuous replacement of vehicle batteries for approximately 3.5 million cars. This information is couple years old, but they would be consuming on the order of 1/6th of the world production of battery grade lithium at full output. In any case, we're talking about a significant chunk of the global supply market here, for such a tiny portion of the potential demand.

To supply the electric car market, the grid scale battery market, and the small appliances market, the global production would have to go up 1000x in just a few short years to meet the development targets. It's just not plausible - especially for the grid battery market where the potential demand is measured in the hundreds or thousands of Terawatt-hours for both the industry growth and the replacement battery units.

This shortage of supply will cause the battery prices to skyrocket, and that puts the brakes on the whole industry.

May 16, 2019
You see, it's not just a question of "Is there enough lithium in the ground?" - but actually, it's a question of who's gonna dig it up, refine it, transport it, and how much will that cost?

Lithium battery recycling is also currently more expensive than making new ones, so it's not really done at the moment because the resulting batteries wouldn't be competitive. In the mean while, battery prices would need to go down - not up - for the whole grid storage and electric car market to really kick off.

It's a real jenga of a problem, where pulling on any of the blocks will cause the others to fall.

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