Skoltech and Lomonosov Moscow State University researchers have recently created a material for sodium-ion batteries.
With lithium prices over five times higher than they were a year ago, researchers from Skoltech and Lomonosov Moscow State University have developed a material for sodium-ion batteries, which offer an alternative to the increasingly expensive lithium-ion tech. The new material is a powder of sodium-vanadium phosphate fluoride with a particular crystal structure. Used in the battery cathode, it provides record-high energy storage capacity, eliminating one of the bottlenecks of the emerging sodium-ion technology. The research findings are reported in Nature Communications.
Lithium-ion batteries are everywhere: Among other things, they power portable electronics and electric vehicles, and store the energy produced by wind farms to even out irregular wind patterns. However, relying on lithium alone is risky, because its chemicals are growing ever more expensive, their production is rather dirty, and the ore deposits are unevenly distributed around the world. One step down in the periodic table, the much more abundant alkali metal sodium lends itself as a possible alternative to lithium.
So far the sodium-ion battery tech is relatively new, and while the basic architecture of the battery cell is the same, different materials have to be used for the principal components. Among them, the cathode is crucial for battery characteristics. In their recent paper, Skoltech and MSU researchers came up with a new cathode material that ensures 10%-15% better battery energy density than the current top contender.
“Both our new material and the one the industry has recently deployed are called sodium-vanadium phosphate fluoride — they’re made of atoms of the same elements. What makes them different is how those atoms are arranged and in what ratio they are contained in the compound,” study co-author, Assistant Professor Stanislav Fedotov of Skoltech, said.
According to the scientists, once more research into efficient materials for sodium-ion batteries is conducted, they might well supersede lithium-ion accumulators in heavy electric vehicles, such as buses and trucks, as well as in stationary energy storage at wind, solar farms and elsewhere.
Reprinted with permission.