A proton battery combines the best aspects of hydrogen fuel cells and conventional batteries

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Researchers from RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia have produced a working-prototype proton battery, which combines the best aspects of hydrogen fuel cells and battery-based electrical power:

The latest version combines a carbon electrode for solid-state storage of hydrogen with a reversible fuel cell to provide an integrated rechargeable unit.

The successful use of an electrode made from activated carbon in a proton battery is a significant step forward and is reported in the International Journal of Hydrogen Energy.

During charging, protons produced by water splitting in a reversible fuel cell are conducted through the cell membrane and directly bond with the storage material with the aid of electrons supplied by the applied voltage, without forming hydrogen gas.

In electricity supply mode this process is reversed; hydrogen atoms are released from the storage and lose an electron to become protons once again. These protons then pass back through the cell membrane where they combine with oxygen and electrons from the external circuit to re-form water.

A major potential advantage of the proton battery is much higher energy efficiency than conventional hydrogen systems, making it comparable to lithium ion batteries. The losses associated with hydrogen gas evolution and splitting back into protons are eliminated.

Several years ago the RMIT team showed that a proton battery with a metal alloy electrode for storing hydrogen could work, but its reversibility and rechargeability was too low. Also the alloy employed contained rare-earth elements, and was thus heavy and costly.

The latest experimental results showed that a porous activated-carbon electrode made from phenolic resin was able to store around 1 wt% hydrogen in the electrode. This is an energy per unit mass already comparable with commercially-available lithium ion batteries, even though the proton battery is far from being optimised. The maximum cell voltage was 1.2 volt.


  1. Patty O. says:

    You really like batteries.

  2. Bruce says:

    Batteries are important. I’d like to see an X-Prize for a lighter-than-air battery.

  3. Sam J. says:

    I think a lot of these hydrogen batteries are just SJW mental masturbation. They want hydrogen because it’s green. Even if you find a way to store hydrogen safely you still need a way to make it and a way to get power from it. Too many problems. Not saying at some point it could not be overcome just that there are better ways to store power in the first place.

    I really wished that we would spend the same amount of resources on flywheels that we do on batteries. I suspect the reason we don’t is that batteries have to be replaced periodically and flywheels much less so. I can’t find the references I’ve used right off hand but the power you can get out of a flywheel is directly related to the specific strength of the material used. With regular fiberglass you can outclass normal lead acid batteries. That they haven’t replaced them is…lead acid battery makers are making big money replacing their worthless LA batteries. The specific strength of graphene would outclass lithium ion and I think carbon fiber would also. Carbon fiber is rapidly coming down in price and so is graphene. Some of the high strength plastics would do well also. It would take a good deal of work to make flywheels as a package like a battery. They would need generators, motors and active bearings all in one package. Much like most industrial processes once you had the engineering done the price could plummet far below lithium because of the cheap material cost. I suspect that the best way to do this would be to use electrostatic motors, generators and electrostatic bearings combined. The power you can get from electrostatic generators in a vacuum is VERY HIGH per weight. Far outdoing a normal magnetic generator. Here’s a few pertinent links.

    A New Look at an Old Idea; The Electromechanical Battery


    I wish the chart below had graphene, fused silica and some others



  4. Sam J. says:

    “SJW mental masturbation”

    A bit harsh, technophilia would also fit.

  5. Candide III says:

    Flywheels are used all right — in niche applications for backup energy storage, e.g. to provide critical power until diesel generators or backup turbines start. (See flywheel energy storage.) A high-speed flywheel is difficult to use in a vehicle. It creates strong gyroscopic forces, its suspension must stand up to vibration (unlike stationary applications), it is a fire hazard if composite (a 50,000rpm flywheel braking due to accident or failure dumps all its energy into heat in a very short time) and a kinetic hazard if solid (in case of failure its pieces become projectiles on par with small-bore artillery). A lead-acid battery is safer and, I suspect, cheaper for its primary application.

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