New research turns sodium batteries from risky liquid to safe solid – pv magazine International

Researchers at Deakin University in Victoria have announced a breakthrough in the development of new polymer electrolyte chemistries that they believe could pave the way for a safer and cheaper alternative to current battery energy storage technologies. lithium ions.

A team of researchers from the Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) at Deakin University used computer modeling and simulations to advance the design of a new type of solid-state polymer electrolyte, showing its use potential in various types of polymer-based solid-state batteries, particularly sodium and potassium batteries.

Rechargeable batteries combined with sodium metal anodes are considered one of the most promising high-energy, low-cost energy storage systems. However, the use of highly reactive metallic sodium and the formation of sodium dendrites during battery operation have caused safety concerns, especially when highly flammable liquid electrolytes are used.

New research, published in the journal Nature Materials, suggests that by using a polymer as an ion conductor rather than the flammable liquid solvents currently used in lithium-ion batteries, energy storage is greener, safer and less expensive.

Lead researcher Dr Fangfang Chen said the team used a computer-to-lab materials design strategy, applying modeling and simulations to find the best compositions for polymer electrolytes.

“This work has been dedicated to developing new polymer electrolyte chemistries that can be used with high-energy metals that are more abundant and less expensive than lithium, such as sodium and potassium,” she said. “New materials can contribute to future battery technology that is more sustainable and greener, as well as providing society with safer and better performing energy storage devices.

Professor Maria Forsyth, Chen’s research partner, said the work expands current knowledge of electrolyte systems and provides an alternative to mainstream lithium-ion technology.

“Lithium-based technology is expensive, in demand and increasingly scarce, so breakthroughs that provide alternative, inexpensive and safe energy storage options are of major importance,” she said. declared.

“We can now offer an alternative way to produce polymer-based semiconductor batteries. This is an important step, and this process will serve as the design criteria for further development in this area of ​​research.

Professor Maria Forsyth and Dr Fangfang Chen from the Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University.

Picture: Deakin University

The research results come after Forsyth and Dr Xiaoen Wang announced last month that they had developed solvent-free solid polymer electrolytes based on a perfluoropolyether terminated polyethylene oxide block copolymer for sodium metal batteries. in the solid state.

“Most industries developing sodium batteries usually use carbon-based electrode and liquid electrolyte, which has low capacity and can also fuel a fire if the battery overheats,” Wang said.

“We are taking a different approach, using reactive metallic sodium as an anode to increase battery capacity, and in doing so we are developing safer electrolytes to keep sodium batteries safe.”

A key component of the electrolyte – a class of fluorine-containing polymer – was developed by Dr Cheng Zhang and Professor Andrew Whittaker of Australia’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology at the University of Queensland. Originally used for biological applications, this is the first time the polymer has been used in solid state sodium batteries.

Wang said one of the drawbacks of current sodium batteries is that they don’t last as long as lithium batteries and have a lower energy density. However, by combining them with the new polymer electrolytes, the researchers estimate that sodium batteries could offer nearly 1,000 cycles, comparable to current lithium-ion batteries.

The research team said small-scale testing of the batteries has been successful, with scale-up and prototyping to come. Wang said that with further research, opportunities may be on the horizon for use in stationary energy storage like solar or even in electric vehicles.

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