IFM researchers are investigating an alternative technology to address cost and safety issues associated with the lithium-ion batteries used in everything from mobile phones to microgrids.

Research from the Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub (BatTRI-Hub) has proven the viability of sodium-ion batteries, which can be cheaper and safer than their lithium ion counterparts.

Sodium batteries are not affected by the explosive problems plaguing lithium-ion, which have caused recalls and bans of certain model phones on some airlines. Sodium batteries are also capable of charging and discharging at higher rates.

Another advantage of sodium-ion batteries is that they can be made using readily available materials, without mining for rare materials such as cobalt. Unlike lithium-ion batteries, the key components of sodium-ion batteries are synthesised from low-cost, abundant materials with secure supply chains.

Although sodium ion batteries have been investigated since the 1970s, until now the technology has not been optimised for mainstream use due to the discovery and widespread expansion of lithium-ion technology.

However, this is changing as the BatTRI-Hub team led by Professor Patrick Howlett and Professor Maria Forsyth have demonstrated through advances using high-stability electrolyte formulations to improve the technology.

Their latest findings have been presented as part of a specially curated edition of the journal Advanced Energy Materials, co-edited by Professor Forsyth with international experts Professors Teofilo Rojo, Yong-Sheng Hu and Xiaolin Li.

Professor Forsyth and her team used ionic liquids as electrolytes, which showed enhanced sodium battery performance during testing at the BatTRI-Hub.

The team’s breakthrough research has shown how sodium secondary cells could also be used in conjunction with lithium-based devices.

The global focus on alternative energy storage technologies and the similarities in electrochemistry between sodium and lithium has sparked the renewed interest in sodium batteries.

Highlight publication:
Advanced Energy Materials 8(17) Special Issue: Sodium-Ion Batteries, Eds T. Rojo, Y-S Hu, M. Forsyth and X. Li.

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