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Sustainability-in-Tech : Ultra-Fast Charging Sodium Battery Developed

Research by a team of doctoral candidates, supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea, has resulted in the development of an ultrahigh-energy density and fast-rechargeable hybrid sodium-ion battery.

Why? 

As highlighted in the published research paper, there is now an increasing demand for low-cost electrochemical energy storage devices with high energy-density for prolonged operation on a single charge and fast-chargeable power density. These are needed to meet a wide range of applications from mobile electronic devices to electric vehicles.

Sodium-Ion Batteries 

Sodium is approximately 1000 times more abundant than lithium, making sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) potentially more sustainable. Also, since Sodium can be sourced from seawater and other abundant minerals, this reduces the environmental impact associated with mining (a significant issue with lithium sourcing). This could also mean lower costs in producing SIBs – they are a more cost-effective solution than lithium-ion batteries.

Challenges 

However, as noted by the researchers, SIBs have “slow redox-reaction kinetics,” which results in poor rechargeability due to their low power density, although they provide a relatively high energy density.  However, another sodium-ion battery option, sodium-ion capacitors (SICs), have high power density due to charge storage via fast surface ion adsorptions but extremely low energy density.

A Hybrid

Bearing in mind the strengths and limitations of both SIBs and SICs, the researchers’ answer was to develop a hybrid version of the two with newly developed anode and cathode materials. The researchers described these new materials as “a low-crystallinity multivalence iron sulfide-embedded S-doped carbon/graphene (FS/C/G) anode and a ZIF-derived porous carbon (ZDPC) cathode of 3D porous N-rich graphitic carbon frameworks.” 

The Result 

The result was the development of a high-performance hybrid sodium-ion energy storage device (a battery) which surpasses the energy density of commercial lithium-ion batteries and has the characteristics of supercapacitors’ power density. In other words, a high-energy, high-power hybrid sodium-ion battery that can charge in just a couple of seconds.

Applications 

Clearly, this development could have a number of applications, not least for EVs. The development of a high-energy, high-power hybrid sodium-ion battery could be particularly advantageous in addressing the cost, environmental, and safety concerns associated with current lithium-ion batteries in EVs.

What Does This Mean For Your Business? 

This sounds like a breakthrough in overcoming the main limitations of sodium-ion batteries. Although it’s one piece of research, the combination of adding new materials to the anode and cathode with a hybrid of SICs and SIBs appears to have created a potentially cheaper, more environmentally friendly, and better performing replacement for lithium-ion batteries.

More research and investment will be needed to fully explore and develop the idea, but it is a promising development in terms of its potential to provide a boost to the flagging EV market. The fact that this new battery can charge in seconds and offers high energy density for prolonged operation means it could tackle challenges like range-anxiety and reduce worries about the availability of an effective charging network in the UK. A cheaper battery may also mean lower prices for EVs which could also provide a boost to the market. This breakthrough (although it needs more exploration) could prove to be a big leap forward that could have a positive impact on many industries as well as helping to reduce environmental damage (no need for lithium mining).

That said, it could be not-so-welcome news for countries that have recently discovered potentially lucrative large lithium deposits, e.g. the US (at the McDermitt Caldera), Iran (Qahavand Plain), Nigeria, and India (the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir).

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