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Na-ion battery design eliminates crystal formation

By Scott Jenkins |

Researchers at Washington State University (Pullman, Wash.; www.wsu.edu) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (Richland, Wash.; www.pnnl.gov) have created a cathode material and electrolyte system for a Na-ion battery that overcomes limitations observed with previous approaches to Na-ion batteries. Na-ion batteries are being explored as possible alternatives to now-ubiquitous lithium-ion batteries because they use cheaper, more abundant starting materials.

Cathodes made from layered sodium and transition-metal oxides (O3-type layered materials) are promising materials for high-performance Na-ion batteries, but they form a non-reactive layer of sodium salt crystals at the cathode surface with repeated recharging. This salt buildup stops the flow of sodium ions and renders the battery inoperable. The PNNL and WSU researchers developed an advanced liquid electrolyte that includes extra sodium ions to improve the interaction between electrolyte and cathode. The design for the cathode and electrolyte suppresses the formation of the inactive surface crystals and allows continued movement of sodium ions.

With the new electrolyte, the layered cathode can deliver a specific capacity of about 196 mAh/g and demonstrates more than 80% capacity retention over 1,000 cycles, the researchers say. The research team is working to better understand the electrolyte-cathode interaction and trying to eliminate the need for cobalt in the battery cathode design.

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