Sodium-ion batteries are an emerging technology with a working principal similar to that of the lithium-ion batteries. Sodium-ion batteries follow an intercalation-based “rocking chair” mechanism, whereby the embedding (intercalation) and stripping (deintercalation) process of sodium-ion between positive (cathode) and negative (anode) electrodes, which are parted by the separator soaked in electrolyte, realises charge and discharge.
Sodium-Battery Component Materials
In terms of the material system, except for the separator, all other base materials used in conventional sodium-ion batteries are different, especially the cathode material and anode material.
- Cathode: since sodium ions have a larger radius than lithium ions, it is difficult for them to intercalate making for poor energy density, therefore the cathode material types used today in sodium-ion batteries are namely layered transition metal oxides, polyanionic compounds or Prussian blue compounds.
- Anode: graphite-based anode material used in lithium-ion batteries cannot effectively intercalate sodium ions, therefore, the anode material used in sodium-ion batteries today is generally amorphous carbon-based material products such as hard carbon or soft carbon.
- Electrolyte: the molar conductivity of sodium ions is higher, which makes the concentration of electrolyte required for sodium-ion batteries lower, and the requirements for additives also lower. Today sodium hexafluorophosphate is used in sodium ion batteries.
- Separator: a sodium-ion battery uses polyethylene (“PE”) or polypropylene (“PP”) as its separator material, which is the same as lithium-ion batteries, there is no difference.
- Current collectors: both the cathode current collector and anode current collector of a sodium-ion battery use aluminium foil, while lithium-ion batteries use aluminium foil for cathode current collector and copper foil for anode current collector.
Product Performance Comparison
In terms of product performance, sodium-ion batteries advantages include good safety, rate performance, and low temperature performance, but have the disadvantages of poor cycle life and its energy density is comparable to only that of conventional lithium iron phosphate batteries.
Due to the comparable energy density, excellent rate performance and significant cost advantage of sodium-ion batteries, they are considered cost-effective and will be applied to large-scale energy storage systems, two-wheeler electric vehicles and low-speed electric vehicles and are expected to complement and eventually replace lithium-ion batteries in the future. Large-scale energy storage systems mainly include wind power plants, solar power plants and household energy storage systems while low-speed electric vehicles mainly include logistics vehicles, agricultural vehicles, electric vehicles, electric buses and electric boats.
The commercialisation is accelerating with more than 20 companies investing in the industry. China companies mainly include Zhongke Haina, Natrium Energy, and CATL. At present, the planned production capacity in China is around 19GWh. Outside of China companies mainly include Faradion from the UK, NAIADES from EU, Natron Energy from the US, and Kishida Chemical, Toyota, Panasonic, and Mitsubishi Chemical from Japan.
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