Sodium-ion batteries (NIB) have emerged as a promising green alternative to Li-ion batteries (LIB) due to the economic and environmental benefits associated with the technology. NIBs in contrast to LIBs contain materials that are abundant, cheap, less toxic and globally available. The much lower extraction cost of Na precursor (approx. €100 per ton), compared to Li carbonate (approx. €20,000 per ton) is an illustrative example of the savings that can be made. A further cost reduction can be achieved by the replacement of the Cu current collector required for LIB anodes with Al, (> 300,000 tonnes produced annually in Europe) which is lighter and cheaper and can be safely employed at both electrodes.
This research project aims to develop a completely sustainable, high-capacity sodium-ion battery from highly abundant, low-cost, non-toxic elements. The active materials in the battery are optimised for sustainability, consisting of a hard carbon nanofiber anode derived from biowaste and a sulphate-based cathode. These will be combined with a novel polymer/Na-ion modified gel polymer electrolyte with enhanced ionic conductivity and low thermal shrinkage.
This collaborative project, funded through the Irish government’s Disruptive Technology Innovation Fund, offers significant career development opportunities for the successful applicant as it will enable the researcher to interact and collaborate with leading Irish academic and industrial partners. The researcher will have access to a state-of-the-art battery research laboratory in the University of Limerick that includes materials synthesis labs, glove-boxes for cell preparation and a full suite of electrochemical characterisation equipment. Access to advanced characterisation equipment will also be available such as electron microscopy (SEM, TEM), surface analytical tools (XPS, ToF-SIMS), spectroscopy (Raman-SEM, FTIR, NMR, UV-Vis), X-ray diffraction and a thermal analysis suite.