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Hydronium ions as charge carriers

By Scott Jenkins |

Scientists at Oregon State University (Corvallis; www.oregonstate.edu) have for the first time demonstrated the use of hydronium ions (H3O+) as charge carriers. The research opens another avenue of exploration for high-power, sustainable batteries for stationary power-storage applications. The research team, led by professor Xiulei Ji, demonstrated that hydronium ions can be reversibly stored in an organic crystalline material, perylenetetracarboxylic dianhydride (PTCDA), which has been used as an electrode in lithium-ion and other batteries. Using dilute sulfuric acid as the electrolyte, the researchers confirmed that the H3O+ ions (rather than single protons) were incorporated into the PTCDA crystal lattice, indicating a new chemistry for charge storage, Ji explains. The researchers also found that H3O+ ions diffuse at higher rates than K+ or Na+ ions through the electrode structure, suggesting that H3O+ has lower migration-activation energy, Ji says. Although the reason for this “low-friction” property is not yet clear, it could eventually give rise to higher-power batteries. The next stage of research in this area may be to focus on identifying cathode, anode and electrolyte materials for a battery system using H3O+ as a…
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