Researchers have developed a new type of battery with great potential to be remarkably durable, without the risk of fire, avoiding the use of rare and expensive materials.
The oxygen-ion battery which is “regenerated” with air.
The first oxygen-ion battery was born in the laboratories of the Technical University of Vienna (TU Wien).
The device, the brainchild of scientists Alexander Schmid, Martin Krammer and Jurgen Fleig, offers an approach to electrochemical storage that may offer some advantages over widely available rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
In fact, the union of oxygen and batteries is nothing new from a technical point of view. In recent years, the element has made its way into storage devices, giving rise to a long series of metal-air batteries, alongside lithium, iron, zinc, sodium or aluminum. .
The work of the Viennese team, however, started from a premise closer to solid oxide fuel cells. They had a lot of experience with ceramic materials used in fuel cells.
This gave us the idea to investigate whether they could also be suitable for making a battery. The materials in question are mixed conductive oxides capable of absorbing and releasing oxygen (O2-) ions with a doubly negative charge. When an electric voltage is applied, O2– migrates from one ceramic material to another, with the possibility of returning again, thus generating an electric current.
Ceramic materials, a new solution for storage.
The basic principle is actually very similar to that of the lithium-ion battery. But our materials have important advantages. Ceramic is non-flammable, the cell design does not necessarily require rare elements, and the durability is extremely high. In other words, its storage capacity does not decrease over time, but can simply be replenished with oxygen from the atmosphere. On the other hand, however, the energy density of the oxygen-ion battery is only one-third that of lithium-ion batteries and it operates at temperatures between 200 and 400°C. This makes the technology impractical for applications such as electric vehicles or portable electronics, but it offers exciting opportunities for network storage.
If a large storage unit is needed to temporarily store solar or wind energy, for example, the oxygen-ion battery could be a good solution. If an entire building full of modules is constructed, the lower energy density and the higher operating temperature do not play a decisive role. But the strengths of our battery are particularly important: the long life, the fact that large quantities can be produced without rare elements, and the fact that there is no risk of fire with these batteries.