Replacing their typical cylindrical shape with a flat disc design allows the battery to deliver 30 percent more power at lower temperatures, according to work published by the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in the October 8 issue of ECS Transactions, a trade journal.
Researchers say these sodium-beta batteries could eventually be used in electricity substations to balance the generation and delivery of wind and solar power on to the grid.
Because the battery's main components include abundant materials such as alumina, sodium chloride and nickel, they are less expensive to manufacture than lithium-ion batteries, and could still offer the performance necessary to compete for consumers' interest. In addition, compared to other battery systems, sodium-beta batteries are safer and can help incorporate renewable energy sources into the electrical system easier.
"This planar sodium battery technology shows potential as an option for integrating more solar and wind power into our electric grid," said Carl Imhoff, electricity infrastructure sector manager at PNNL.
Sodium-beta alumina batteries have been around since the 1960s but their tubular, cylindrical shape does not allow efficient discharge of stored electrochemical energy. This inefficiency causes technical issues associated with operating at high temperatures and raises concern about the cost-effectiveness of the tubular batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries surpassed sodium-beta batteries because they perform better. However, materials for lithium batteries are limited, making them more expensive to produce. Safety also has been a concern for rechargeable lithium batteries because they can be prone to thermal runaway, a condition where the battery continually heats up until it catches fire.
"The PNNL planar battery's flat and thin design has many advantages over traditional, tubular sodium nickel chloride batteries," said PNNL Scientist Xiaochuan Lu, co-author of the paper.
To take advantage of inexpensive materials, the PNNL researchers thought a redesign of the sodium-beta batteries might overcome the technical and cost issues: the cylindrical sodium beta batteries contain a thick, solid electrolyte and cathode that create considerable resistance when the sodium ion travels back and forth between the anode and the cathode while the battery is in use. This resistance reduces the amount of power produced. To lower the resistance, temperature must be elevated. But increasing operation temperature will shorten the battery's lifespan.
The researchers then tested the performance of their redesigned sodium-nickel chloride planar batteries, which look like wafers or large buttons.
The researchers found that a planar design allows for a thinner cathode and a larger surface area for a given cell volume. Because the ions can flow in a larger area and shorter pathway, they experience lower resistance. Next, the battery's design incorporates a thin layer of solid electrolytes, which also lowers the resistance. Because of the decrease of resistance, the battery can afford to be operated at a lower temperature while maintaining a power output 30% more than a similar-sized battery with a cylindrical design.
Finally, the battery's flat components can easily be stacked in a way that produces a much more compact battery, making it an attractive option for large-scale energy storage, such as on the electrical grid.
"Our goal is to get a safer, more affordable battery into the market for energy storage. This development in battery technology gets us one step closer," said Lu.
Researchers at PNNL and EaglePicher LLC received funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy, or ARPA-E, earlier this year to conduct the research, and will work together to improve the battery's design, lifespan and power capacity.
The research was funded by PNNL and by ARPA-E.
Reference: Xiaochuan Lu, Greg Coffey, Kerry Meinhardt, Vincent Sprenkle, Zhenguo Yang, and John P. Lemmon, High Power Planar Sodium-Nickel Chloride Battery, ECS Trans. 28, 7 (2010), doi:10.1149/1.3492326, in press.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (www.pnl.gov) 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, the environment and national security. 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.
| Newswise Science News
Did you know that the wrapping of Easter eggs benefits from specialty light sources?
13.04.2017 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH
To e-, or not to e-, the question for the exotic 'Si-III' phase of silicon
05.04.2017 | Carnegie Institution for Science
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
03.04.2017 | Event News
27.04.2017 | Life Sciences
27.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
27.04.2017 | Earth Sciences