Researchers at WSU & PNNL Innovates Cheaper Sodium-Ion Battery to Compete with Lithium-Ion

The researchers explained that this is because a layer of inactive sodium crystals builds up at the surface of the cathode, stopping the flow of sodium ions, and this kills the battery. They claim to have designed a solution that allowed the continued movement of sodium ions that prevents these surface build-ups

June 08, 2020. By News Bureau

Researchers at the Washington State University (WSU) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) announced that they have created a sodium-ion battery that can be made with extensively and cheaply available materials.

They said that these batteries work as well as commercially available lithium-ion batteries, adding that they offer similar performance and can retain more than 80% of their charge even after 1,000 charge cycles.

“This is a major development for sodium-ion batteries,” said Imre Gyuk, director of Energy Storage for the Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity who supported this work at the laboratory, adding that “there is great interest around the potential for replacing lithium-ion batteries with sodium-ion in many applications.”

Lithium-ion batteries are some of the most commonly used types of batteries used in electronic devices and vehicles. They are usually smaller, lighter, and more compact in size compared to their alternatives.

However, they are delicate and need protection from being over-charged and discharged too far, which usually requires additional circuitry, making them more expensive to make. They also require much lower maintenance compared to other types of batteries.

Sodium-ion batteries can be made at much lower costs with materials available in abundance. Still, they have not been able to be as efficient as lithium-ion batteries at holding energy.

The researchers explained that this is because a layer of inactive sodium crystals builds up at the surface of the cathode, stopping the flow of sodium ions, and this kills the battery. They claim to have designed a solution that allowed the continued movement of sodium ions that prevents these surface build-ups.

“This work paves the way toward practical sodium-ion batteries, and the fundamental insights we gained about the cathode-electrolyte interaction shed light on how we might develop future cobalt-free or low cobalt cathode materials in sodium-ion batteries as well as in other types of battery chemistries,” said Junhua Song, lead author of the paper.

“If we can find viable alternatives to both lithium and cobalt, the sodium-ion battery could truly be competitive with lithium-ion batteries,” Song added.

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