In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have become the go-to technology for a wide range of applications, including smartphones, laptops, electric vehicles and even renewable energy storage systems. However, the abundance and affordability of sodium have led researchers to explore the potential of sodium-ion batteries as an alternative to lithium-ion batteries.
Sodium-ion batteries have potential for cost-effective use in specific applications like large-scale energy storage systems, where weight and energy density are less critical.
Challenges such as lower energy density and faster electrode degradation limit the applicability and long-term cost-effectiveness of sodium-ion batteries compared to lithium-ion batteries.
Sodium-ion battery research is less extensive, but efforts are being made for renewable energy storage and electric vehicle applications.
While sodium-ion batteries share some chemical properties with their lithium-ion counterparts, they have several key differences that limit their applicability. The first major challenge is that sodium-ion batteries have lower energy density compared to lithium-ion batteries, meaning they store less energy per unit of weight or volume. This makes sodium-ion batteries less suitable for portable applications, such as smartphones and laptops, where lightweight and high-energy density batteries are necessary.
Another challenge faced by sodium-ion batteries is that their electrodes tend to degrade faster than those in lithium-ion batteries, reducing their overall performance and lifespan. This means that sodium-ion batteries may not be as cost-effective in the long run, as they may require more frequent replacement.
The R&D in Sodium-ion Batteries and the Potential Applications
Furthermore, there is less R&D being done on sodium-ion batteries compared to lithium-ion batteries, which means that there is less understanding of how to optimise performance while reducing costs. Lithium-ion batteries have been extensively researched and developed over the years, resulting in improvements in energy density, safety and cost.
Despite these challenges, sodium-ion batteries are being developed for specific applications, such as large-scale energy storage systems. In these applications, weight and energy density are less of a concern, and the lower cost of sodium may make sodium-ion batteries a more cost-effective option.
One example of this is the collaboration between the Australian National University and Chinese battery manufacturer Qingdao LiV Energy Science & Technology Co. to develop a sodium-ion battery that can be used to store renewable energy. This battery is expected to have a longer lifespan and lower cost than lithium-ion batteries, making it an attractive option for large-scale energy storage systems.
Another example is the research being done by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California to develop sodium-ion batteries that can be used in electric vehicles. While the current prototypes are not yet as efficient as lithium-ion batteries, researchers believe that with further development, sodium-ion batteries could be a viable option for electric vehicles in the future.
While sodium-ion batteries have some potential advantages over lithium-ion batteries in terms of abundance and affordability, their lower energy density and faster electrode degradation make them less suitable for many applications. However, with targeted R&D, sodium-ion batteries could become a cost-effective option for specific applications, such as large-scale energy storage systems, where weight and energy density are less of a concern.