Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The heat is on for sodium-manganese oxide rechargeable batteries

08.06.2011
New method to make sodium ion-based battery cells could lead to better, cheaper batteries for the electrical grid

By adding the right amount of heat, researchers have developed a method that improves the electrical capacity and recharging lifetime of sodium ion rechargeable batteries, which could be a cheaper alternative for large-scale uses such as storing energy on the electrical grid.


The uniform nanostructure of heat-treated manganese oxide provides tunnels for sodium ions to flow through, improving the performance of the electrodes. Credit: PNNL

To connect solar and wind energy sources to the electrical grid, grid managers require batteries that can store large amounts of energy created at the source. Lithium ion rechargeable batteries -- common in consumer electronics and electric vehicles -- perform well, but are too expensive for widespread use on the grid because many batteries will be needed, and they will likely need to be large. Sodium is the next best choice, but the sodium-sulfur batteries currently in use run at temperatures above 300 degrees Celsius, or three times the temperature of boiling water, making them less energy efficient and safe than batteries that run at ambient temperatures.

Battery developers want the best of both worlds -- to use both inexpensive sodium and use the type of electrodes found in lithium rechargeables. A team of scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and visiting researchers from Wuhan University in Wuhan, China used nanomaterials to make electrodes that can work with sodium, they reported June 3 online in the journal Advanced Materials.

"The sodium-ion battery works at room temperature and uses sodium ions, an ingredient in cooking salt. So it will be much cheaper and safer," said PNNL chemist Jun Liu, who co-led the study with Wuhan University chemist Yuliang Cao.

The electrodes in lithium rechargeables that interest researchers are made of manganese oxide. The atoms in this metal oxide form many holes and tunnels that lithium ions travel through when batteries are being charged or are in use. The free movement of lithium ions allows the battery to hold electricity or release it in a current. But simply replacing the lithium ions with sodium ions is problematic -- sodium ions are 70 percent bigger than lithium ions and don't fit in the crevices as well.

To find a way to make bigger holes in the manganese oxide, PNNL researchers went much much smaller. They turned to nanomaterials -- materials made on the nanometer-sized scale, or about a million times thinner than a dime -- that have surprising properties due to their smallness. For example, the short distances that sodium ions have to travel in nanowires might make the manganese oxide a better electrode in ways unrelated to the size of the tunnels..

To explore, the team mixed two different kinds of manganese oxide atomic building blocks -- one whose atoms arrange themselves in pyramids, and another one whose atoms form an octahedron, a diamond-like structure from two pyramids stuck together at their bases. They expected the final material to have large S-shaped tunnels and smaller five-sided tunnels through which the ions could flow.

After mixing, the team treated the materials with temperatures ranging from 450 to 900 degrees Celsius, then examined the materials and tested which treatment worked best. Using a scanning electron microscope, the team found that different temperatures created material of different quality. Treating the manganese oxide at 750 degrees Celsius created the best crystals: too low and the crystals appeared flakey, too high and the crystals turned into larger flat plates.

Zooming in even more using a transmission electron microscope at EMSL, DOE's Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory on PNNL's campus, the team saw that manganese oxide heated to 600 degrees had pockmarks in the nanowires that could impede the sodium ions, but the 750 degree-treated wires looked uniform and very crystalline.

But even the best-looking material is just window-dressing if it doesn't perform well. To find out if it lived up to its good looks, the PNNL-Wuhan team dipped the electrode material in electrolyte, the liquid containing sodium ions that will help the manganese oxide electrodes form a current. Then they charged and discharged the experimental battery cells repeatedly.

The team measured peak capacity at 128 milliAmp hours per gram of electrode material as the experimental battery cell discharged. This result surpassed earlier ones taken by other researchers, one of which achieved peak capacity of 80 milliAmp hours per gram for electrodes made from manganese oxide but with a different production method. The researchers think the lower capacity is due to sodium ions causing structural changes in that manganese oxide that do not occur or occur less frequently in the heat-treated nano-sized material.

In addition to high capacity, the material held up well to cycles of charging and discharging, as would occur in consumer use. Again, the material treated at 750 Celsius performed the best: after 100 cycles of charging-discharging, it lost only 7 percent of its capacity. Material treated at 600 Celsius or 900 Celsius lost about 37 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Even after 1,000 cycles, the capacity of the 750 Celsius-treated electrodes only dropped about 23 percent. The researchers thought the material performed very well, retaining 77 percent of its initial capacity.

Last, the team charged the experimental cell at different speeds to determine how quickly it could take up electricity. The team found that the faster they charged it, the less electricity it could hold. This suggested to the team that the speed with which sodium ions could diffuse into the manganese oxide limited the battery cell's capacity -- when charged fast, the sodium ions couldn't enter the tunnels fast enough to fill them up.

To compensate for the slow sodium ions, the researchers suggest in the future they make even smaller nanowires to speed up charging and discharging. Grid batteries need fast charging so they can collect as much newly made energy coming from renewable sources as possible. And they need to discharge fast when demands shoots up as consumers turn on their air conditioners and television sets, and plug in their electric vehicles at home.

Such high performing batteries could take the heat off an already taxed electrical power grid.

Reference: Yuliang Cao, Lifen Xiao, Wei Wang, Daiwon Choi, Zimin Nie, Jianguo Yu, Laxmikant V. Saraf, Zhenguo Yang and Jun Liu, Reversible Sodium Ion Insertion in Single Crystalline Manganese Oxide Nanowires with Long Cycle Life, Advanced Materials, June 3, 2011, DOI 10.1002/adma.201100904 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/adma.201100904).

This work was funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Science and Office of Electricity Delivery & Energy Reliability.

EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory located at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is a national scientific user facility sponsored by the Department of Energy's Office of Science. EMSL offers an open, collaborative environment for scientific discovery to researchers around the world. EMSL's technical experts and suite of custom and advanced instruments are unmatched. Its integrated computational and experimental capabilities enable researchers to realize fundamental scientific insights and create new technologies. EMSL's Facebook page.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is a Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory where interdisciplinary teams advance science and technology and deliver solutions to America's most intractable problems in energy, national security and the environment. PNNL employs 4,900 staff, has an annual budget of nearly $1.1 billion, and has been managed by Ohio-based Battelle since the lab's inception in 1965. Follow PNNL on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Mary Beckman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.pnl.gov

More articles from Materials Sciences:

nachricht Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer
20.10.2017 | Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona

nachricht Metallic nanoparticles will help to determine the percentage of volatile compounds
20.10.2017 | Lomonosov Moscow State University

All articles from Materials Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>