"Unlike lithium-ion batteries, the key components of sodium-ion batteries are synthesised from low-cost, abundant materials with secure supply chains," said Professor Maria Forsyth, director of the Battery Technology Research and Innovation Hub (BatTRI-Hub). "There's a lot of opportunity here because of the cost benefits and availability, and it can also be a drop-in technology for manufacturers currently using lithium-ion, without the need for a complete re-tooling of their manufacturing process."
Professor Forsyth and her group used non-conventional electrolytes composed entirely of salt that are liquid below 100ºC, rather than using high temperature molten salt or salt water. These ionic liquids have shown enhanced sodium battery performance during testing at the BatTRI-Hub. "Given the significance of reliable and sustainable energy to the modern world, the development of energy storage solutions is critical – batteries are an inseparable part of this, and as society continues to grow and evolve, so too must battery technologies," she said. "Sodium-ion batteries are proving to be an emergent technology with very attractive properties, particularly in future smart energy grids. The first generation versions are already on route for commercial use, so the future of sodium-ion battery research is very promising."
The team plans to build such a battery to be part of a microgrid development at the University.
Associate Professor Patrick Howlett, co-director of the hub, said the team's breakthrough research showed how sodium secondary cells could also be used in conjunction with lithium-based devices. "We need to look beyond lithium, and a global focus on alternative energy storage technologies has seen this area of research drastically expand in recent years," he said. "As sodium and lithium share similarities in their electrochemistry, there is a rationale for renewed interest in the area of sodium batteries."