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Stunning New Anode-Free Sodium Battery Unveiled

A team of scientists from the Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering at the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego, has developed the world’s first-ever anode-free sodium solid-state battery, making it a huge success. This could be a game-changer for energy storage and a price cut, which is more environmentally friendly and charges faster than the lithium-ion batteries in use today.

The collaborative effort, led by UChicago Prof. Y. Shirley Meng’s Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion, LESC, achieved marrying sodium, solid-state, and anode-free battery technologies into one high-capacity unit. The findings published in Nature Energy show a new battery architecture that can seamlessly cycle hundreds of times.

“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 UCSD Ph.D. candidate Grayson Deysher, first author of the paper.

This new battery design does without an anode and instead uses sodium, an element much more plentiful and cheap to acquire than lithium. The abundance of sodium is about 20,000 parts per million of Earth’s crust, while lithium makes up only 20 parts per million. That abundance combines with this new solid-state design to shove this battery into not only being cost-effective but also safer and more powerful.

Traditional batteries rely on an anode to store ions during charging. In contrast, what anode-free batteries do is store ions directly on the current collector, allowing higher cell voltages, less expensive manufacturing, and increased energy densities. Admittedly, this method does not come without challenges in maintaining good contact between the electrolyte and the current collector. The team solved this by developing a current collector made from aluminum powder, which behaves like a liquid during assembly and thus ensures optimum contact with the solid electrolyte.

“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 noted.

The implications of this breakthrough are huge. As Prof. Meng emphasized, to move world economies off fossil fuel, battery production must dramatically ramp up. “To keep the United States running for one hour, we must produce one terawatt hour of energy. To accomplish our mission of decarbonizing our economy, we need several hundred terawatt hours of batteries. We need more batteries, and we need them fast.”

There is also a major environmental advantage. While conventional extraction of lithium involves either extremely ecologically dangerous industrial acid processing or obtrusive brine mining, sodium can be sustainably sourced from ocean water and soda ash mines. This shift is urgent, partly because demand for lithium-ion batteries has increased so much that their cost is rising and their supply chains are becoming increasingly complex.

It is an attempt that has been taken by the LESC team to push the science associated with battery technology followed by the pathway establishment toward a more sustainable and energy-efficient future. Patent application for this innovative design has already been filed by the researchers, marking a promising new direction in this quest for cleaner energy storage solutions.

This thus set a record in energy storage history: the first anode-free sodium solid-state battery in the whole world. This discovery would be a game-changer in the great shift the world is committed to about sustainable energy systems, capable of offering cheaper, faster-charging, and more environmentally friendly batteries.

More for you:

  • Laboratory for Energy Storage and Conversion, UChicago Prof. Shirley Meng Created the World’s First Anode-free Sodium Solid-state Battery – A Breakthrough in Inexpensive, Clean, Fast-Charging Batteries | Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering | The University of Chicago.
  • The team develops the world’s first anode-free sodium solid-state battery.
  • First Fast Charging Anode-Free Sodium Solid-State Battery Revolutionizes Clean Energy Storage.

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