Rechargeable Lithium batteries play a vital role in satisfying the worlds growing portable energy demands. These low cost, compact, and lightweight batteries are the primary choices for most portable electronic devices, Electric/Hybrid Vehicles, Solar Plants, etc. However, the availability of Lithium and Cobalt is limited on the earth’s crust and relying completely on these metals will be a problem to meet the future energy demands.
This is why a team of scientists at Tokyo University of Science led by a Professor Shinichi Komaba is working on finding an alternative element in place of Lithium for the Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIB). With Sodium and Potassium in the same alkali metal group in the periodic table, their chemical nature is similar to lithium and can act as a viable replacement for lithium. But, unlike lithium, these elements are widely abundant on Earth, and using them to develop high-performance rechargeable batteries would be a breakthrough towards creating a more sustainable environment. These Potassium-ion batteries (KIBs) have slowly become the focus of extensive research since 2015. The use of potassium in batteries is promising because they show comparable (or even better) performance to LIBs. What's more, the materials necessary to build KIBs are all non-toxic and much more abundant and cheaper than those required for LIBs.
In a remarkable effort to facilitate further research on KIBs, the research group led by Prof Komaba analyzed the workings of KIBs in great detail in a comprehensive review published in Chemical Reviews. The paper encompasses everything related to the development of KIBs, from cathode materials, anode materials, various electrolytes, and all-solid KIBs, to electrode doping and electrolyte additives. Moreover, the review compares the different materials used in lithium, sodium, and potassium ion batteries.
However, research on certain aspects of KIBs, such as their safety, has been limited and focus should be placed on obtaining more insight into what's going on physically and chemically between the different components and elements. Apart from this, Mr. Komba’s research group has also focused on supercapacitors and biofuel cells along with both LIBs and sodium-ion batteries, which could all find very important functions in a more sustainable society in the future.