Will Australian research team crack the sodium-battery code?

A team of Australian researchers are aiming to crack commercial viability of sodium-ion batteries for stationary storage applications, despite the issues that have plagued the chemistry over time. The research taking place at the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, has received $2.7 million AUD (€1.73 million euro)  in funding from ARENA (Australian Renewable Energy Agency).

Sodium-based batteries make up 11 percent of the electrochemical storage market globally, based on the International Renewable Energy’s 2017 figures. The chemistry has seen low interest in recent years, especially compared to lithium-ion which makes up 59% of the global market.

While sodium batteries are an attractive prospect due to their safe, low-cost components, the efforts to commercialise have been mixed. Sodium-based batteries have found their way into energy storage systems in both Italy and Japan, however much-publicised sodium battery company Aquion experienced a disastrous crash in March of this year (As of July, Aquion has returned with new owners at the helm).

The Australian team of researchers intend to use the pioneering energy materials research of the Intstitute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials, in addition to the institute’s close ties with related industries to gain and advantage and crack the sodium-battery code. The project’s first goal is to develop a 5kWh battery for the “Illawarra Flame House”, the University of Wollongong’s example sustainable home.

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