Striving for Mainstream: 3 Companies Boost Na-ion Battery Technology
As the rush for more eco-friendly electronics and vehicles progresses, CATL, Xtreme Power Conversion, and Natron Energy are banking on sodium-ion in their new technologies.
While Li-ion batteries are undoubtedly one of the best energy storage devices available today regarding cost, efficiency, and capacity, they are also undoubtedly not sustainable. While lithium is a naturally occurring element in the earth, about only 1/3 of it is minable, and the production process is time, resource-consuming, and dirty.
Schematic representation of a sodium-ion battery cell. Image used courtesy of K.M. Abraham
As the world pushes for cleaner electronics, the use of lithium ultimately might not be sustainable for the long term. In pursuit of a cleaner and more naturally abundant alternative, engineers have turned their attention to sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries. Na-ion has the promise to be more sustainable due to sodium’s natural abundance and cleaner manufacturing processes.
This article will discuss two industry developments regarding Na-ion batteries to understand better how this technology can interplay within batteries.
CATL Aims to Impress
The first innovation comes from last week with CATL, a Chinese company, which made big news in the battery field when it announced its first Na-ion batteries.
CATL’s first-generation Na-ion battery. Image from CATL
As the founder, Dr. Zeng explains [video] that its new battery utilizes a Prussian white material with a high specific capacity for the cathode and a redesigned bulk structure that helps the device maintain capacity amongst charge cycles.
On the other hand, the anode is made of proprietary hard carbon material with a unique porous structure, enabling large-scale storage and fast movement of sodium ions.
CATL claims that its battery management system for its Na-ion can be mixed and matched with Li-ion batteries. Screenshot from CATL [video]
Diving into the technology, the battery seems to offer some impressive specs, including a per-cell energy density of 160 Wh/kg. As a reference, the current lithium-ion battery in an iPhone 11 Pro Max has a specific energy of ~252 Wh/kg. Thus, while it’s not on par with top-of-the-line Li-ion batteries, it’s certainly in the ballpark.
On top of this, the battery claims a 15-minute charge time of 80%, 90% capacity retention at -20C, and system integration efficiency over 80%. CATL also boasts that its Na-ion batteries exceeded national safety requirements, allowing it to be implemented in applications like electric vehicles, which has recently been a significant industry focus.
Using Na-ion Batteries in a UPS
Another exciting announcement from last week comes from Xtreme Power Conversion, which introduced the industry’s first rackmount uninterruptible power system (UPS) powered by sodium-ion batteries.
The UPS was designed in conjunction with Natron Energy, a sodium-ion battery company whose technology is based on Prussian Blue chemistry. The UPS integrates Natron’s BlueTray 4000, which, when configured in a standard 1U 19-inch rackmount configuration, can deliver 4 kW at 48 VDC over a 2-minute discharge, a 6 kW peak power rating, an 8-minute recharge, and over 50,000 cycles of a lifetime.
New Na-ion-based UPS. Image from Xtreme Power Conversion
The new Xtreme Power P91L UPS comes in ratings up to 5 kW, 120/208/220/230/240 V AC, 50/60 Hz operation, and are uniquely configured to accept Natron’s BlueTray 4000 48 V DC battery for backup power.
With releases such as these from Xtreme Power and CATL, it is clear that Na-ion technology is slowly picking up speed. Even though Na-ion batteries are nowhere near as mature and functional as Li-ion batteries as it stands, but the direction of research and the industry might soon change this.
The innovations from CATL, Xtreme Power Conversion, and Natron are evidence that the field of Na-ion batteries is growing significantly and could one day be poised to overtake Li-ion.
Interested in other battery innovations? Learn more in the articles down below.