Researchers at Uppsala University have developed a new type of experimental proton battery that’s built with entirely organic components, making it much more environmentally friendly than most. On top of that, it can also be charged in a matter of minutes and can function at very low temperatures.
Most batteries, such as the ubiquitous lithium-ion battery, are made with metals that need to be mined and refined, which creates a lot of environmental harm. And then of course there’s the problem with disposing of them safely as well.
So, the researchers on the new study set out to create organic batteries, made of elements that are easier to find in nature. In this case, the active material is a group of organic compounds called quinones. These are often used by bacteria and plants in processes like photosynthesis and cellular respiration.
For the new battery design, the electrodes are made out of solid polymers of certain quinones. These are immersed in an acidic, watery solution that acts as the electolyte, allowing electrons to pass back and forth between the cathode and anode in a “rocking chair” motion. This is the same basic mechanism behind lithium-ion batteries, except this design shuttles hydrogen ions around. Since these ions only contain protons, the system is referred to as a proton battery.