Advances in Sodium Batteries

With energy demands increasing every day, researchers are looking toward the next generation of energy storage technology. While society has depended on the lithium ion battery for these needs for some time, the rarity and expense of the materials needed to produce the battery is beginning to conflict with large-scale storage needs.

To combat this issue, a French team comprised of researchers primarily from CNRS and CEA is making gains in the field of electrochemical energy storage with their new development of an alternative technology for lithium ion batteries in specific sectors.

Beyond Lithium

Instead of the rare and expensive lithium, these researchers are focusing on the use of sodium ions—a more cost efficient and abundant materials. With efficiently levels comparable to that of lithium, many commercial sectors are showing an increasing interest for sodium’s potential in storing renewable energy.

While this development takes the use of sodium to a new level, the idea has been around since the 1980s. However, sodium never took off as the primary battery building material due to low energy densities and short life cycles. It was then that researchers chose to power electronics with lithium for higher efficiency levels.

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Researchers believe that as work continues in relation to this study, battery technology will accelerate forward.Image: Stony Brook University

Researchers believe that as work continues in relation to this study, battery technology will accelerate forward.
Image: Stony Brook University

A collaborative group of six researchers from Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory are using pioneering x-ray techniques to build a better and more efficient battery.

The researchers—four of whom are active ECS members, including Esther Takeuchi, Kenneth Takeuchi, Amy Marschilok, and Kevin Kirshenbaum—have recently published their internal mapping of atomic transformations of the highly conductive silver matrix formation within lithium-based batteries in the journal Science.

(PS: You can find more of these scientists’ cutting-edge research by attending the 228th ECS Meeting in Phoenix, where they will be giving presentations. Also, Esther Takeuchi will be giving a talk at this years Electrochemical Energy Summit.)

This from Stony Brook University:

In a promising lithium-based battery, the formation of a silver matrix transforms a material otherwise plagued by low conductivity. To optimize these multi-metallic batteries—and enhance the flow of electricity—scientists need a way to see where, when, and how these silver, nanoscale “bridges” emerge. In the research paper, the Stony Brook and Brookhaven Lab team successfully mapped this changing atomic architecture and revealed its link to the battery’s rate of discharge. The study shows that a slow discharge rate early in the battery’s life creates a more uniform and expansive conductive network, suggesting new design approaches and optimization techniques.

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The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.Ia

The new structure has high mobility of Na+ ions and a robust framework.
Image: Nature Communications

With the demand for hand-held electronics at an all-time high, the costs of the materials used to make them are also rising. That includes materials used to make lithium batteries, which is a cause for concern when projecting the development of large-scale grid storage.

In order to find an alternative solution to the high material costs connected with lithium batteries, the researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and the Institute of Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science in Beijing have begun focusing their attention on sodium-ion batteries.

The science around sodium-ion batteries dates back to the 1980s, but the technology never took off due to resulting low energy densities and short life cycles.

However, the new research looks to combat those issues by improving the properties of a class of electrode materials by manipulating their electron structure in the sodium-ion battery.

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Funding Opportunity: Li Batteries

ATL-Logo_144_144_sNingde Amperex Technology Ltd. (ATL, China) is announcing a funding opportunity for researchers actively engaged in rechargeable lithium battery technologies. They are offering $100,000-$500,000 to selected projects addressing current problems associated with lithium metal anodes and proposing viable solutions for the commercialization of long-life, high-performance lithium metal secondary batteries for high energy density applications.

The steep demand for improved rechargeable batteries for use in consumer electronics and electric vehicles is driving the search for new battery electrode materials that will achieve higher energy densities. This funding opportunity seeks to develop scalable technologies for improving the performance of lithium metal anodes.

Please submit technical proposals along with a budget justification, confidentiality disclaimer and a cover page identifying the principle investigator, contact information, affiliations, project duration, total funding requested and submission date to Dr. KaiFu Zhong.

The deadline for submissions is July 31, 2015.

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A New Generation of Electric Car Battery

Scientists out of the University of Waterloo are one step closer to inventing a cheaper, lighter and more powerful rechargeable battery for electric vehicles. At the heart of this discovery lies a breakthrough in lithium-sulfur batteries due to an ultra-thin nanomaterial.

This from the University of Waterloo:

Their discovery of a material that maintains a rechargeable sulfur cathode helps to overcome a primary hurdle to building a lithium-sulfur (Li-S) battery. Such a battery can theoretically power an electric car three times further than current lithium-ion batteries for the same weight – at much lower cost.

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Member Spotlight – Stephen Harris

X-ray absorption spectra, interpreted using first-principles electronic structure calculations, provide insight into the solvation of the lithium ion in propylene carbonate.Image: Rich Saykally, Berkeley Labs

X-ray absorption spectra, interpreted using first-principles electronic structure calculations, provide insight into the solvation of the lithium ion in propylene carbonate.
Image: Rich Saykally, Berkeley Labs

The Electrochemical Society’s Stephen Harris, along with a team of researchers from  Berkeley Lab, have found a possible avenue to a better electrolyte for lithium-ion batteries.

Harris – an expert on lithium-ion batteries and chemist at Berkeley Lab’s Materials Science Division – believes that he and his team have unveiled something that could lead to applying lithium-ion batteries to large-scale energy storage.

Researchers around the world know that in order for lithium-ion batteries to store electrical energy for the gird or power electric cars, they must be improved. The team at Berkeley decided to take on this challenge and found surprising results in the first X-ray absorption spectroscopy study of a model lithium electrode, which has provided a better understanding of the liquid electrolyte.

Previous simulations have predicted a tetrahedral solvation structure for the lithium-ion electrolyte, but the new study yields different results.

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ABAF and IMLB Proceedings for ECS Transactions

With the largest digital collection of electrochemistry and solid state related proceedings, ECST has published 750+ issues and over 16,000 articles since its launch in 2005.

With the largest digital collection of electrochemistry and solid state related proceedings, ECST has published 750+ issues and over 16,000 articles since its launch in 2005.

New issues of ECS Transactions have now been published from the ABAF and IMLB meetings. These meetings are sponsored by The Electrochemical Society. Their dates, volumes, and meeting information is as follows:

Volume 63
15th International Conference on Advanced Batteries, Accumulators and Fuel Cells (ABAF 2014), Brno, Czech Republic, August 24-28, 2014

Volume 62
17th International Meeting on Lithium Batteries (IMLB 2014), Como, Italy, June 10-14, 2014

Issues are continuously updated and all full-text papers will be published here as soon as they are available.

Get currently published issues of ECST.

To be notified of newly published articles or volumes, please subscribe to the ECST RSS feed.

Member Spotlight – Vilas Pol

Vilas Pol has assisting in discovering a nanoparticle network that could bright fast-charging batteries. He joined the Society in 2012.Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

Vilas Pol has assisted in the discovery of a nanoparticle network that could bring fast-charging batteries. He joined the Society in 2012.
Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

The Electrochemical Society’s Vilas Pol, along with a team of Purdue University researchers, has developed a nanoparticle network that could produce very fast-charging batteries.

This new electrode design for lithium-ion batteries has been shown to potentially reduce the charging time from hours to minutes, all by replacing the conventional graphite electrode with a network of tin-oxide nanoparticles.

This from Purdue University:

The researchers have performed experiments with a “porous interconnected” tin-oxide based anode, which has nearly twice the theoretical charging capacity of graphite. The researchers demonstrated that the experimental anode can be charged in 30 minutes and still have a capacity of 430 milliamp hours per gram (mAh g−1), which is greater than the theoretical maximum capacity for graphite when charged slowly over 10 hours.

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Norwegian entrepreneur, Jostein Eikeland, is finally unveiling the development his has been working on in secret for the past decade in hopes to jolt the world of energy storage.

Eikeland and his company Alevo plan to reveal a battery that will last longer and cost far less than the current rival technologies. To do this, they have developed a technology that is to store excess electricity generated by power plants.

This from Reuters:

The company has created what it calls GridBanks, which are shipping containers full of thousands of battery cells. Each container can deliver 2 megawatts of power, enough to power up to 1,300 homes for an hour. The batteries use lithium iron phosphate and graphite as active materials and an inorganic electrolyte – what Eikeland called the company’s “secret sauce” – that extends longevity and reduces the risk of burning. They can be charged and discharged over 40,000 times, the company said.

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Researcher used microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO that could help enable higher-energy battery designs.Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Researcher used microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO that could help enable higher-energy battery designs.
Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

The quest for better batteries is an ongoing trend, and now the researchers from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) have yet another development to add.

During their research, the scientists found exceptional properties in a garnet material. They now believe that this could lead to the development of higher-energy battery designs.

This from ORNL:

The ORNL-led team used scanning transmission electron microscopy to take an atomic-level look at a cubic garnet material called LLZO. The researchers found the material to be highly stable in a range of aqueous environments, making the compound a promising component in new battery configurations.

Read the full article here.

While most researcher tend to use a pure lithium anode to improve a battery’s energy density, the ORNL scientists believe the LLZO would be an ideal separator material.

“Many novel batteries adopt these two features [lithium anode and aqueous electrolyte], but if you integrate both into a single battery, a problem arises because the water is very reactive when in direct contact with lithium metal,” said ORNL postdoctoral associate Cheng Ma, first author on the team’s study published in Angewandte Chemie. “The reaction is very violent, which is why you need a protective layer around the lithium.”

With developments such as these, which lead to higher-energy batteries – we begin to improve electrified transportation and electric grid energy storage applications. Due to the importance of higher-energy batteries, researchers tend to explore battery designs beyond the limits of lithium-ion technologies.

Read the full study here.

To find out more about battery and how it will revolutionize the future, check out what the ECS Battery Division is doing. Also, head over to the Digital Library to read the latest research (some is even open access!). While you’re there, don’t forget to sign up for e-Alerts so you can keep up-to-date with the fast-paced world of electrochemical and solid-state science.

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