Researchers create world’s first anode-free sodium solid-state battery

A breakthrough in inexpensive, clean, fast-charging batteries.

Share

Follow us onFollow Tech Explorist on Google News

UChicago Pritzker Molecular Engineering Prof. Y. Shirley Meng’s Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion has achieved a major breakthrough by developing the world’s first anode-free sodium solid-state battery.

This groundbreaking research, conducted in collaboration with the University of California San Diego‘s Aiiso Yufeng Li Family Department of Chemical and Nano Engineering, brings us closer to realizing inexpensive, fast-charging, and high-capacity batteries for electric vehicles and grid storage.

The paper highlights a new sodium battery architecture capable of stable cycling for several hundred cycles. By eliminating the anode and utilizing affordable, abundant sodium instead of lithium, this pioneering battery design promises to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly to manufacture. Moreover, its innovative solid-state configuration ensures safety and high performance.

This work represents a significant scientific advancement and is a crucial step in bridging the battery scaling gap essential for transitioning the global economy away from fossil fuels.

“Although there have been previous sodium, solid-state, and anode-free batteries, no one has been able to successfully combine these three ideas until now,” said UC San Diego PhD candidate Grayson Deysher, first author of a new paper outlining the team’s work.

The global demand for lithium-ion batteries used in electronics and electric vehicles has caused a steep increase in the price of lithium. This surge in demand, coupled with the limited availability of lithium deposits, has made these batteries more expensive and harder to access.

Moreover, the environmental impact of lithium extraction is significant, whether through industrial acids used in mining or the water-intensive brine extraction process.

On the other hand, sodium, found abundantly in ocean water and soda ash mining, presents a more environmentally friendly alternative for battery production. The latest research in LESC has underlined the potential of sodium as a powerful and sustainable battery material.

In order to achieve the energy density of a lithium battery in a sodium battery, our team has developed a groundbreaking new sodium battery architecture.

Conventional batteries rely on an anode to store ions during charging, with the ions subsequently flowing through an electrolyte to a current collector (cathode) to power various devices and vehicles.

Anode-free battery design eliminates the traditional anode, instead storing ions through an electrochemical deposition of alkali metal directly on the current collector. This innovative approach allows for higher cell voltage, reduced cell cost, and increased energy density. However, it does present its own set of challenges.

“In any anode-free battery, there needs to be good contact between the electrolyte and the current collector,” Deysher said. “This is typically very easy when using a liquid electrolyte, as the liquid can flow everywhere and wet every surface. A solid electrolyte cannot do this.”

Anode-free schematics and energy density calculations. a) Cell schematic for carbon anodes, alloy anodes, and an anode-free configuration. b) Theoretical energy density comparison for various sodium anode materials. c) Schematic illustrating the requirements for enabling an anode-free all-solid-state battery.
Anode-free schematics and energy density calculations. a) Cell schematic for carbon anodes, alloy anodes, and an anode-free configuration. b) Theoretical energy density comparison for various sodium anode materials. c) Schematic illustrating the requirements for enabling an anode-free all-solid-state battery. Credit: Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion

Unfortunately, the liquid electrolytes used in this design tend to create a buildup known as solid electrolyte interphase and steadily consume the active materials, ultimately diminishing the battery’s effectiveness over time.

The team adopted a novel and innovative approach to address this challenge. Instead of using an electrolyte that surrounds the current collector, they designed a current collector that surrounds the electrolyte.

To achieve this, they utilized aluminum powder to create the current collector, which behaves as a solid yet has the ability to flow like a liquid. This powder was compacted under high pressure during battery assembly to form a solid current collector while maintaining a liquid-like connection with the electrolyte. This advancement enables low-cost and high-efficiency cycling, propelling this groundbreaking technology forward.

“Sodium solid-state batteries are usually seen as a far-off-in-the-future technology, but we hope that this paper can invigorate more push into the sodium area by demonstrating that it can indeed work well, even better than the lithium version in some cases,” Deysher said.

Meng envisions an energy future with a range of affordable, clean battery options that can efficiently store renewable energy and be tailored to meet the needs of society. Meng and Deysher have taken a crucial step towards realizing this vision by filing a patent application for their work through UC San Diego’s Office of Innovation and Commercialization.

Journal reference:

  1. Grayson Deysher, Jin An Sam Oh, Yu-Ting Chen, Baharak Sayahpour, So-Yeon Ham, Diyi Cheng, Phillip Ridley, Ashley Cronk, Sharon Wan-Hsuan Lin, Kun Qian, Long Hoang Bao Nguyen, Jihyun Jang & Ying Shirley Meng. Design principles for enabling an anode-free sodium all-solid-state battery. Nature Energy, 2024; DOI: 10.1038/s41560-024-01569-9

Trending