Battery breakthrough brings ‘unprecedented performance’ to next-gen cells

Sodium-ion batteries could soon be found in everything from smartphones to wind farms

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 17 November 2023 05:33 GMT
Sodium-ion battery manufacturing in China

A battery breakthrough made by researchers in Japan could pave the way for next-generation batteries to finally enter mass production.

A team from Tokyo University of Science discovered a way to build sodium-ion batteries with an equivalent performance to conventional lithium-ion batteries.

Lithium-ion, or li-ion, batteries are found in everything from electric cars to smartphones, however they are made from difficult-to-extract and expensive resources, while also containing liquid electrolytes that are toxic and flammable.

By contrast, sodium-ion batteries are cheaper, offer stability against extreme temperatures, and pose no risk of overheating. Until now, their main limitation has been a lower energy density compared to li-ion batteries.

To overcome this limitation, the scientists developed a high-capacity electrode made from nanostructured hard carbon, which they were able to optimise and then incorporate into an actual battery.

The researchers said the new electrodes deliver “unprecedented performance” and offer a viable option for producing next-generation batteries for consumer electronics and electric vehicles.

“This value is equivalent to the energy density of certain types of currently commercialised lithium-ion batteries... and is more than 1.6 times the energy density of the first sodium-ion batteries, which our laboratory reported back in 2011,” said Professor Shinichi Komaba from Tokyo University of Science.

The breakthrough could also make sodium-ion batteries viable for other practical applications, such as low carbon footprint energy storage systems for solar and wind farms.

The research was detailed in a study, titled ‘New template synthesis of anomalously large capacity hard carbon for Na- and K-ion batteries’, published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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