Researchers boost sodium-ion battery performance

February 01, 2019 //By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Researchers boost sodium-ion battery performance
Lithium-ion batteries are ubiquitous in devices such as laptops and cell phones as well as in hybrid and fully electric cars. One downside to lithium is the fact that it is a limited resource. Not only is it expensive, but its annual output is (technically) limited (due to drying process). To address this issue researchers at the Nagoya Institute of Technology (NITech) in Japan have demonstrated that a specific material can act as an efficient battery component for sodium-ion batteries that will compete with lithium-ion batteries for several battery characteristics, especially speed of charge.

Today, the electric vehicle – being a vital technology for fighting pollution in rural areas as well as ushering in clean and sustainable transport – is an important player in the efforts to solve the energy and environmental crises. Given increased demand for battery-powered devices and particularly electric cars, the need to find an alternative to lithium – one that is both cheap as well as abundant – is becoming urgent.

Sodium-ion batteries are an attractive alternative to lithium-based ion batteries due to several reasons. Sodium is not a limited resource – it is abundant in the earth's crust as well as in seawater. Also, sodium-based components have a possibility to yield much faster charging time given the appropriate crystal structure design. However, sodium cannot be simply swapped with lithium used in the current battery materials, as it is a larger ion size and slightly different chemistry. Consequently, researchers are looking for the best material for the sodium ion battery among vast number of candidates by trial-and-error.

Scientists at NITech have found a rational and efficient way around this issue. After extracting about 4300 compounds from crystal structure database and following a high-throughput computation of these compounds, one of them yielded favorable results and was therefore a promising candidate as a sodium-ion battery component. The researchers identified that Na2V3O7 demonstrates desirable electrochemical performance as well as crystal and electronic structures. This compound shows fast charging performance, as it can be stably charged within 6 minutes. Further, the researchers demonstrated that the compound leads to long battery life as well as a short charging time.

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