Unlocking Na-ion systems through interphase design

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Chemistry


Energy is one of the primary challenges of the 21st century, and is driven by a need to decarbonise the energy sector and increase energy security and supply. These issues are well documented and do not require reiterating, except to highlight that success is paramount for continued economic and societal growth. Batteries have an important role to play here in the areas of portable electronics, electrified vehicles and grid storage. To date, lithium-ion has revolutionised energy storage, but UK lithium reserves are limited and globally the majority is located in only four countries, placing future UK industry subject to external market and geopolitical forces. Technology diversification is essential and batteries based on abundant sodium (Na ~ 2.6 % vs. Li ~ 0.005 % in the Earth's crust) must be developed. The sodium-ion battery has the potential to meet performance and cost targets in emerging battery markets. The battery benefits from the use of widely available and abundant sodium and unlike the lithium-ion battery, does not rely on cobalt for its electrode materials, making it a sustainable alternative to lithium-ion. This project will accelerate delivery of this technology, which will provide UK PLC with an alternative high performance battery technology. A number of key challenges limit development of this battery and these include identification of stable high performance battery electrodes and electrolytes. Significant progress has been made in this space and numerous advanced materials have been reported, but development of the negative electrode lags behind the other components. The main reason for this is that current electrolytes used in these batteries react with the negative electrode. The goal of this research programme will be to understand how changing this electrolyte affects the fundamental chemistry at the negative electrode in the battery and to build on this to identify new battery components able to provide a high performance and long life sodium-ion battery. This programme will be supported by close interaction with leading industrial stakeholders in the field to ensure technology relevant outputs and to provide a route to commercialisation.

Planned Impact

The UK is committed to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels and meeting its climate change targets by 2050 while mitigating or avoiding increasing energy costs that will stifle economic growth and lower living standards. Achieving this will require a cost effective route to decarbonisation of the power and transport sector. Meeting these goals is a challenge but offers immense economic opportunity. The sodium-ion battery could provide a sustainable alternative to current Li-ion batteries at a lower cost. This would have global societal impact, through revolution of the electric vehicle and portable electrics markets.

The societal impact of this research will stem from the technology and products enabled by advancements made in energy storage. Notably this will include facilitating uptake of electrified vehicles, with reduced emissions and greater energy efficiency. Expansion of renewable energy across the grid is in part limited by the prohibitive cost of large scale battery installations. A low cost battery technology would enable greater uptake of clean renewable energies. Moreover, low cost grid scale energy storage would improve flexibility of the grid, increasing efficiency and lowering consumer costs. As was the case with the introduction of lithium-ion systems, a second revolution in energy storage would allow further innovation in portable electronics.

Development of this technology in the UK will offer significant advantage to the emerging battery industry, and support post-Brexit and the industrial strategy plans for UK dominance of the electric vehicle sector and secondary industries. I am committed to maximising commercial impact of this work and retaining commercial benefits within the UK. Potential IP will be protected with the support of the dedicated Business Partnership Unit within the School of Chemistry, which has contributed to the formation of 5 spinout companies in the last 12 years. Commercially promising advancements will be demonstrated in demonstrator devices with colleagues at the UoN and industrial partners. Dissemination of activities within the major battery networks, STFC batteries, Alistore, and the Energy Research Accelerator, and amongst my personal contacts, will ensure any commercial benefit is realised. The skilled researchers trained during this programme will support growth of the UK battery industry.

Policymakers and government will benefit from contribution to Energy Storage Roadmaps and updating timelines for development of battery technology. Within the Midlands, both the Energy Research Accelerator and the Advance Propulsion Centre will be important routes to policy stakeholders.


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Description Transition metal ion leaching from sodium-ion battery cathodes has been shown to impact degradation of the anode SEI.

New additives for the sodium-ion battery have been identified.
Exploitation Route To early to say
Sectors Chemicals