Scientists at the University of Birmingham have found a way to replace the lithium in the rechargeable batteries with a better and cheaper source: sodium.
Their research has been recently published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
We use lithium-ion batteries in laptops, mobile phones and now in electric vehicles, all being important technologies to help us stay connected or to help us fight pollution. However, the problem is that lithium is a resource unevenly found on the planet and it is expensive. To extract it, a lot of energy and drinking water is used, which ironically makes the word “sustainability” fade.
Here’s where a group of scientists found that they could bring back the goal of sustainability by using a resource heavily present on the planet. Moreover, it proved to be more efficient, which is a plus for electric cars!
The Research Behind the Sodium-ion Batteries
As we mentioned, sodium can be found everywhere, but the problem is that sodium is a larger ion than lithium. This means that it cannot be inserted in current technologies because it will not fit between the carbon layers of the LIB anode, graphite.
Scientists had to find new materials to create the components for the battery to make it better regarding capacity, the speed of charge, power density, and energy.
Dr. Andrew Morris and his team at the Department of Metallurgy and Materials (University of Birmingham) started running quantum mechanical models on supercomputers to predict different scenarios.
The team found that at intermediate stages of charging, phosphorus forms helices. Then, the final composition of the electrode proved to have a capacity charge seven times of the one of graphite at the same weight, which is a step forward in making high-capacity sodium-ion anodes.
Collaborating with Dr. Lauren Marbella and Professor Clare Grey’s team (University of Cambridge), the researchers finally found a way to create a sodium-ion battery, explains Dr. Andrew Morris:
“This is a huge win for computational materials science. We predicted how phosphorus would behave as an electrode in 2016 and were now able, with Professor Grey’s team to provide insights into experiment and learn how to make our predictions better. It’s amazing how powerful combined theory-experimental approaches are.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere