Mammal bones encourage design of latest sodium-ion battery

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Mammal bones inspire design of new sodium-ion battery

In order to build a structurally more stable sodium ion battery, a team of researchers from South Korea and the United States took inspiration from mammalian bones and their multilayered geometry.

Like mammalian bones, the new battery structure – described Tuesday in Applied Physics Review – combines a spongy inner material with a harder, more compact outer layer.

In the last few years, scientists have looked at the sodium ion battery to finally remove lithium-ion batteries from the hierarchy of electric batteries. Many researchers estimate that lithium-ion batteries are reaching the limits of their efficiency – and a new kind of chemistry is necessary.

Sodium-ion batteries offer a number of advantages over lithium batteries, but researchers previously struggled to develop effective sodium cathodes, the components through which electrons enter the battery.

Scientists propose that their new bone-inspired design solves the problem of cathode instability.

“We believe nature offers a promising solution for solving technical problems,” study co-author Ho Seok Park, a researcher at Sungkyunkwan University in Korea, said in a press release. “Accordingly, we tried to find the ideal architecture that would overcome these kinetic and stability limitations.”

For the porous inner material, the researchers used Na3V2 (PO4) 3, a sodium superionic conductor compound called NVP. The researchers surrounded the material with a thick layer of reduced graphene oxide, or rGO.

NVP enables the rapid transport of sodium ions, but is inherently unstable. The layer of rGO made the cathodes more stable and prevented the damage caused by electrochemical and mechanical stress.

After 10,000 discharge and charge cycles, the NVP-rGO combination retained 90 percent of its capacity.

Despite the promising performance of their battery, the researchers suggest that more testing is needed before they’re ready for commercial use.

“Large-scale synthesis of bone-inspired NVP with high quality, optimization of bone-inspired NVP composition and structure, and fabrication and testing of large area, high stress electrodes are considered necessary for more practical applications.” Said Park.

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