Sodium Batteries: Blast-Proof?
Sodium Magnesium- To Replace Lithium ion!
Industrial forecasts predict an insatiable need for battery farms to store renewable energy like solar and wind. Lithium ion batteries may remain tops for sheer performance, but when cost-per-storage is factored in, a Stanford design based on sodium ions offers promise.
As a warming world moves from fossil fuels toward renewable solar and wind energy, industrial forecasts predict an insatiable need for battery farms to store power and provide electricity when the sky is dark and the air is still. Against that backdrop, Stanford researchers have developed a sodium-based battery that can store the same amount of energy as a state-of-the-art lithium ion, at substantially lower cost.
Making it work:
The sodium salt makes up the cathode, which is the pole of the battery that stores electrons. The battery’s internal chemistry shuttles those electrons toward the anode, which in this case is made up of phosphorous. The more efficiently the cathode shuttles those electrons toward and backward versus the anode, the better the battery works. For this prototype, postdoctoral scholar Min Ah Lee and the Stanford team improved how sodium and myo-inositol enable that electron flow, significantly boosting the performance of this sodium ion battery over previous attempts. The researchers focused mainly on the favorable cost-performance comparisons between their sodium ion battery and state of the art lithium. In the future they’ll have to look at volumetric energy density – how big must a sodium ion battery be to store the same energy as a lithium ion system.
Having already optimized the cathode and charging cycle, the researchers plan to focus next on tweaking the anode of their sodium ion battery.
A project supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) aims to find new materials which can be used in rechargeable batteries and eventually provide alternatives to the current lithium batteries. Lithium-based batteries have several drawbacks, such as the limited availability of the raw material itself as well as the numerous safety issues, which are primarily associated with the use of a flammable liquid compound. This problem has been exemplified by the recurrence of exploding mobile phones.
Instead Of Lithium Ion: Sodium and Magnesium.
Magnesium: The perfect but complex material.
The same team has also developed a solid magnesium-based electrolyte. Until now, very little research had been done in this field. The fact that it is much more difficult to set this element in motion doesn’t mean that it is any less attractive: it’s available in abundance, it’s light, and there’s no risk of it exploding. But more importantly, a magnesium ion has two positive charges, whereas lithium only has one. Essentially, this means that it stores almost twice as much energy in the same volume.
Some experimental electrolytes have already been used to stimulate magnesium ions to move, but at temperatures in excess of 400 degrees. The electrolytes used by the Swiss scientists have already recorded similar conductivities at 70 degrees. “This is pioneering research and a proof of concept,” says Elsa Roedern of Empa, who led the experiments. “We are still a long way from having a complete and functional prototype, but we have taken the first important step towards achieving our goal.”
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