Натрийионные аккумуляторы CEA. Источник изображения: V.GUILLY/CEA

Sodium-ion batteries ready to challenge lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries dominate the efficient energy storage market today, but the latest sodium batteries are poised to replace them in data centers, telecommunications, and home and energy backup systems.

Sodium batteries CEA. Image source: V.GUILLY / CEA

Sodium batteries CEA. Image source: V.GUILLY / CEA

Sodium-ion batteries promise to be cheaper, safer and more environmentally friendly than lithium-ion batteries. They do not contain metals and substances hazardous to human health either in the cathodes or in the electrolyte, and sodium reserves in the earth’s crust are thousands of times greater than lithium. The only thing that sodium batteries are inferior to lithium ones is about half the specific density of energy storage.

So, if commercial lithium-containing batteries can store an average of 285 Wh / kg, then promising sodium batteries promise up to 140 Wh / kg. But this only means that sodium batteries are disadvantageous in small applications such as smartphones, while this is not critical for backup power supplies. For large systems, it is important that the cost of sodium-ion batteries will be 10-20% less than lithium-ion, and this difference will only increase over time.

Today, at least two manufacturers of sodium-ion batteries are ready for expansion in the battery market – the American company Natron Energy and the British company Faradion. Natron Energy already supplies sodium batteries in limited quantities, and its merits, for example, are marked by funding from a US agency such as DARPA. In particular, in September last year, DARPA allocated $ 19.9 million to Natron Energy as part of a new program to accelerate the introduction of new technologies for quick market entry.

Natron sodium batteries. Image source: Natron

Natron sodium batteries. Image source: Natron Energy

Another leading sodium ion battery company, Britain’s Faradion, has found markets in Australia and India. The company announced last year that it received its first order from investment group ICM Australia for use in the Australian market, where demand for batteries for residential, commercial and power distribution solutions is growing. It also develops batteries for commercial vehicles in India.

According to Faradion, prototypes of the new sodium-ion cells can deliver energy densities in excess of 140 Wh / kg. At the same time, a number of studies are underway that promise to bring the capacity of sodium-ion batteries closer to 200 Wh / kg, but this will be the next stage in the development of such battery cells.

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