A new solid-state sodium battery development project being worked on by researchers at Iowa State University (amongst others) was recently awarded $3 million in new funding via ARPA-E’s 2015 OPEN funding initiative, according to recent reports. (ARPA-E stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy.)
The new research project in question is headed by Steve W Martin — an Anson Marston Distinguished Professor in materials science and engineering and an associate of the US Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory. Along with the research team at Iowa State University, other collaborators include the University of Colorado, the University of Houston, Solid Power Inc, and Washington State University.
The solid-state sodium (Na) battery in question (the one that the project is developing) is intended to work at room temperature, while utilizing “a benign and scalable solid-stack design for a long cycle life.” The expectation is that the new battery will possess a roughly 20% increase in energy density, as compared to state-of-the-art lithium-ion batteries.
Research head Steve W Martin commented: “When we look at ways to efficiently store energy from wind and solar sources, lithium-based batteries are expensive and world-wide geological resources of lithium are actually quite limited. A sodium-based battery, on the other hand, has the potential to store larger amounts of electrical energy at a significantly lower cost. And, nearly all countries have access to large amounts of sodium.”
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Martin’s new battery will use a solid anode, cathode and electrolyte separator. This construction will eliminate all of the flammable and reactive materials from the battery and make it safer. Martin’s group at Iowa State will develop the new solid electrolyte separator; Martin has been exploring new glass compositions with very high ionic conductivities for some time.
A team led by Yan Yao at the University of Houston will create a new cathode for the battery. A team led by Sehee Lee at the University of Colorado Boulder will develop the new anode for the battery. Scott Beckman and Soumik Banerjee at Washington State University will lead a team using theoretical modeling techniques to optimize the construction and operation of the assembled battery. And Solid Power, led by Dr Josh Buettner-Garrett, will oversee the commercialization of the completed battery.
The design is, notably, not a “new” one — but has until now not seen a market-viable offering.