Apart from researching complex chemistries with high energy densities, scientists also want to create great batteries with common and abundant elements. Sodium, for example. Cells with this component always had issues. A new prototype – created by an Imperial College London team – managed to overcome most of them apart from lower energy density. That may give us sodium-ion batteries with some more work. Call them Na-ion.
This new idea relies heavily on macrocyclic molecules, made from hydrogen and carbon. Yes, these batteries use organic components. Did we mention scientists have already researched the use of sugar in cells? Some are probably still trying to make one.
Macrocyclic molecules are not sugar, but rather cyclophanes. The best property of these chemical compounds – more specifically of paracyclophane‐1,9,17,25‐tetraene – is accomodating the big sodium ions in a sort of net, which the scientists prefer to call a ring structure. The one you can see right below.
Gallery: Sodium-Ion Battery With Organic Component Shows Promise In New Study
This macrocyclic molecule allows the electrons to spread out and prevents them from reacting with other battery elements. This is what gives it cycling stability. In other words, it can be charged and discharged multiple times without any capacity loss. Check what Dr. Florian Glöcklhofer, the lead researcher, had to say about that:
“Many people have also experienced the problem of having to charge their devices more often as they get older and the batteries lose capacity. Our battery prototype did not lose any capacity when tested over 500 charge-discharge cycles, meaning it should not face this problem if developed into a commercial product.”
Each of the cyclophane rings also takes two electrons each time, which makes charging faster than with other chemistries. That is another positive about this new idea.
What this Na-ion battery still lacks is energy density. Unfortunately, neither the press release nor the study mentioned how much power capacity it currently has. Potentially, it could achieve similar energy density to that offered by current lithium-ion cells.