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Researchers make performance breakthrough with sodium-ion battery technology: 'A highly promising material for future energy-storage solutions'

The result is one of the highest recorded readings for this specific kind of material.

The result is one of the highest recorded readings for this specific kind of material.

Photo Credit: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

Experts from Germany believe their most recent breakthrough advances the quality of solid-state, sodium-ion batteries. 

It's technology that many researchers are pursuing as a replacement for common lithium-ion power packs, with the hope of finding a better-performing and cheaper alternative. 

The latest news from the labs at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology includes an update about a highly conductive battery with "dramatically" enhanced performance at room temperature, according to a story from TechXplore. 

The result is one of the highest recorded ionic conductivity readings for sodium superionic conductors. That translates to being a boon for future stationary energy storage applications, per the report. 

The breakthrough is dubbed NYZS — a shortened version of the chemical recipe of Na4.92 Y0.92 Zr0.08 Si4 O12, for anyone who wants to follow along with their chemistry books. Some of the letters and numbers stand for sodium, yttrium, and zirconium. It's a mix that allows for easier sodium ion movement, per the summary. 

When common lithium batteries charge and discharge, ions travel between electrodes through what's called an electrolyte, which is often a liquid. Solid versions can store more energy and don't have a risk of rare, yet serious, fires. That's partly why experts at Samsung seem sold on the tech. And they aren't alone

Additionally, sodium is at least 500 times more abundant on Earth than lithium and can provide for a faster charge and longer life cycle, according to GEP, a New Jersey company that works in material supply chains. The company noted that sodium lacks a "well-established" supply chain, among the challenges for the element. Regardless, the technology is being studied and implemented to power electric vehicles and other devices. 

At Karlsruhe, the research checked the box for improving ionic conductivity in the solid-state, sodium-ion chemistry, as well as better "electrochemical stability," as TechXplore explained it. 

It "represents a transformative step in the development of sodium-based energy-storage technologies," senior researcher Sylvio Indris said in the summary. 

In addition to those improvements, the experts reported that the power pack was able to withstand more than 10 volts, a key metric that provides confidence in the tech's safety. 

Stationary storage is a growingly important field as energy experts try to find better ways to save intermittent, renewable power from the sun and wind. Tesla already has huge lithium-ion Megapacks deployed to store power. But less expensive packs that can keep energy for longer stretches are key to expanding the impact of renewable power, already providing 20% of the nation's electricity. 

Better storage can expand programs that make renewable energy more accessible, including community solar. These services provide a way for homeowners to cut as much as 15% from power bills without installing costly panel systems. The option is already available and can be accessed with some quick research online. 

The latest offering from Karlsruhe could be part of the solution to expand renewable energy's impact with sodium-ion science. The experts there report it is "compatible with scalable manufacturing processes."

"... Making it a highly promising material for future energy-storage solutions," Indris said in the TechXplore story. 

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