Renewable Batteries

Makennah Hines, News Contributor

A new study from Oregon State University researchers found that potassium and graphite can successfully work together to form a potassium-ion battery. According to David Ji, Assistant Professor in the college of science at Oregon State University, potassium could be a potential replacement for lithium powered batteries when lithium runs out.

Lithium makes it possible for our phones, computers, remotes, electric cars and more to run. Lithium may run out in the future unless there is an alternative option.

“A potassium battery has better power and a faster charge than that of a lithium battery,” Ji said. “It is not a final product because more properties are needed to make the whole thing, but it is a cornerstone for the future. These findings are filling an important discovery gap. It is proving previous assumptions wrong, and it is a new option for when we run out of lithium.”

In order to conduct the experiment, Ji made one plate of a battery using potassium rather than lithium. It showed that potassium and graphite are able to work together in order to produce a successful charge and power.

“This evidence comes from years and years of research. We know that sodium cannot work successfully in a battery, and people assumed that potassium would not work either, but after I did three years of research, I finally decided to put it into play,” Ji said.

Ji’s research team had three members from OSU, and the U.S. Department of Energy supported their results.

“There are many advantages to a potassium-ion battery, but it obviously depends on how good the battery is. This is a great discovery, which is why the findings were published in ‘The Journals of the American Chemical Society’,” said David Danielson, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy.

“It was a shocking recognition that lithium won’t last forever,” said Ceci McCorkle, a freshman zoology major.  “We’ve become so dependent on it, and because we can make a simple trip to the store when we need more batteries, it is one of those items that we take advantage of.”

The majority of lithium is found in Argentina, China, Chile, Bolivia, Australia, and the United States. According to Availability of Lithium, 92 thousand metric tons of lithium was used worldwide in 2009, and this amount is increasing. 26 percent of this was used in lithium batteries. As technology advances and as electric cars become more popular, the world is on track to run out of lithium.

“Lithium is priced super high, and it will only continue to get more expensive as it become more scarce,” Ji said.

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