The cost of converting to a decarbonized economy is expected to be significantly reduced thanks to a new, low-cost battery that is four times as energy-dense as lithium-ion batteries and is produced at a much lower cost, according to an international team of researchers.
The battery was developed under the direction of Dr. Shenlong Zhao from the University’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering using sodium-sulphur, a type of molten salt that can be processed from sea water and is significantly less expensive to produce than lithium-ion.
Sodium-sulfur (Na-S) batteries have been around for more than 50 years, but despite this, their short lifespans and low energy capacity have prevented them from being widely used.
The researchers’ battery has shaken off its formerly sluggish reputation, exhibiting super-high capacity and ultra-long life at room temperature. They did this by using a straightforward pyrolysis process and carbon-based electrodes to improve the reactivity of sulfur and the reversibility of reactions between sulfur and sodium.
The Na-S battery, according to the researchers, is also a more energy-dense and non-toxic substitute for lithium-ion batteries, which are expensive to produce and recycle while being widely used in electronic devices and for energy storage.
When the sun isn’t shining and the breeze isn’t blowing, we need high-quality storage solutions that don’t cost the Earth and are easily accessible on a local or regional level. We hope that by providing a technology that reduces costs we can sooner reach a clean energy horizon. It probably goes without saying but the faster we can decarbonise the better chances we have of capping warming.Dr. Shenlong Zhao
Dr. Zhao’s Na-S battery has been specifically designed to provide a high-performing solution for large renewable energy storage systems, such as electrical grids, while significantly reducing operational costs.
According to the Clean Energy Council, in 2021 32.5 percent of Australia’s electricity came from clean energy sources and the industry is accelerating. Household energy storage is also growing. According to a recent report a record 33,000 batteries were installed in 2021.
“Our sodium battery has the potential to dramatically reduce costs while providing four times as much storage capacity. This is a significant breakthrough for renewable energy development which, although it reduces costs in the long term, has had several financial barriers to entry,” said lead researcher Dr. Zhao.
“When the sun isn’t shining and the breeze isn’t blowing, we need high-quality storage solutions that don’t cost the Earth and are easily accessible on a local or regional level. We hope that by providing a technology that reduces costs we can sooner reach a clean energy horizon. It probably goes without saying but the faster we can decarbonise the better chances we have of capping warming.”
“Storage solutions that are manufactured using plentiful resources like sodium which can be processed from sea water also have the potential to guarantee greater energy security more broadly and allow more countries to join the shift towards decarbonisation.”
The chemical engineering unit at the University of Sydney has successfully manufactured and tested the lab-scale batteries (cion batteries). The freshly created Ah-level pouch cells will now be improved and put on the market, according to the researchers.