The world is racing to discover the newest form of battery. Currently, most ion batteries are produced with lithium. These batteries have a high energy density, making them very efficient and popular to use. Lithium, however, is relatively rare. Mining the element is expensive, and some experts are on the lookout for a replacement.
A team of researchers from Australia’s Wollongong University believe they’ve found an alternative: potassium. Unlike lithium, potassium is one of the Earth’s most abundant elements. This element has the potential to become a new form of large-scale power storage. This substance is rechargeable, and the cost of using it could be cheaper than that of using lithium.
Drawbacks of Using Potassium
Potassium, however, has heavier atoms than lithium. This means that they are unlikely to reach the same energy density. Despite this, potassium batteries may still be able to work when used as a stationery storage method on a larger scale.
To become more sustainable, the world needs more devices that can store energy. Batteries are one of the better storage options, especially when compared to fuel cells and supercapacitors. Potassium would help meet this need, but potassium batteries will need to be combined with other forms of intermittent renewable energy.
Another roadblock to developing a potassium battery is the slow movement of potassium ions. Potassium ions are large, which makes it difficult for them to move through a solid electrode. Even once they enter an electrode, their size causes problems. The electrodes swell, but then are forced to shrink once the battery completes its charging. Few electrode materials can go through such size changes over and over again. Such batteries simply aren’t sustainable.
Researchers argue that scientists can develop methods and use additives to better control these reactions. Such advancements would require another ten to twenty years in order for them to become as useful and dependable as lithium.
With time, potassium has the potential to become another form of energy storage. However, there are currently several drawbacks to using the element to store energy. Researchers may be able to further develop potassium batteries to alleviate these issues, but such work will take a least another decade. For now, lithium remains the most dependable and popular type of energy storage. Will lithium ever be dethroned as the best batter choice on the market? Only time will tell.