Lithium-ion batteries have become ubiquitous and are an industry leader when it comes to batteries, but nonetheless, battery technology continues to evolve. Austrian scientists have now successfully developed a new type of battery technology known as oxygen-ion batteries. Although they have low energy density, their superiority reigns in the fact that they do not lost their storage capacity over time, are regenerative, and have an extremely long lifespan.
A team at the Vienna University of Technology (TU Wien) has developed an oxygen-ion battery that does not require any rare elements and is made from non-flammable materials. It is being considered as one of the leading solutions for large-scale energy storage systems and can be used to store renewable energy. The team has already applied for a patent with their Spanish partners.
The team’s secret lies in the use of ceramic materials. Alexander Schmid from the Institute of Chemistry and Analytical Studies says that they had previously accumulated much experience working with ceramic materials in fuels cells and they believed that they could apply that similar expertise to making batteries.
The team studied ceramic material that could absorb and release oxygen ions with a double negative charge. The oxygen ions move between two different ceramic materials when an electric voltage is applied, creating a current. Professor Jürgen Fleig explains that the principles behind oxygen-ion batteries are essentially very similar to lithium-ion batteries—the major difference being ceramics are non-flammable. As a result, they do not pose the same fire hazards as lithium-ion batteries. Furthermore, they do not require expensive rare elements that can only be extracted in ways that damage the environment.
Their current prototype uses lanthanum, which the team points out is a less rare but not entirely common element. However, the team is researching alternatives. Schmid says that another advantage to oxygen-ion batteries are their long lifespan. Usually, batteries stop generating power after many charge-discharge cycles, but oxygen-ion batteries can regenerate. It is possible to use oxygen from the air to replenish oxygen lost through side reactions.
Oxygen-ion batteries cannot be used in smartphones or EVs; not only are their energy densities only one-third that of lithium-ion batteries, but they can only operate at temperatures between 200 to 400 °C, which makes them more suitable for applications in long-term or grid-scale battery energy storage systems. As the team previously mentioned, oxygen-ion batteries have a long lifespan, do not contain rare elements, and are not fire hazards.
(Image Source: Vienna University of Technology)