There is rapid advancement in battery technology as researchers strive to discover the next era of sustainable energy storage. The ideal battery should possess a lengthy lifespan, a remarkable energy capacity, and a streamlined production process. Keeping this in mind, they are developing sodium-ion batteries that can revolutionize renewables. Salt and biomass from the forest industry is the raw material for these batteries.
The researchers at Chalmers University decided to study sodium-ion batteries, which use sodium instead of lithium. In their latest research, they conducted a comprehensive life cycle assessment of these batteries. The study focused on analyzing the overall environmental and resource implications of the batteries, starting from the extraction of raw materials to the final stages of manufacturing. They discovered that sodium-ion batteries have the same climate impact as lithium-ion batteries but without the risk of raw material shortages.
Rickard Arvidsson, Associate Professor of Environmental Systems Analysis at Chalmers says, “We came to the conclusion that sodium-ion batteries are much better than lithium-ion batteries in terms of impact on mineral resource scarcity, and equivalent in terms of climate impact. Depending on which scenario you look at, they end up at between 60 and just over 100 kilograms of carbon dioxide equivalents per kilowatt-hour theoretical electricity storage capacity, which is lower than previously reported for this type of sodium-ion battery. It’s clearly a promising technology.”
In addition, the researchers found several potential strategies to further minimize the climate impact, including the development of a more environmentally friendly electrolyte, which was found to contribute significantly to the overall impact of the battery.
About the Study
This study analyzes the environmental and resource impact of two types of sodium-ion battery cells. It considers the entire lifecycle of the batteries, from extracting the raw materials to manufacturing the cells. The study focuses on a functional unit of 1 kWh theoretical electricity storage capacity at the cell level. Both types of battery cells primarily rely on readily available raw materials.
The anode consists of durable carbon derived from either bio-based lignin or fossil resources. The cathode is composed of a special blend called Prussian white, consisting of sodium, iron, carbon, and nitrogen. The electrolyte comprises a sodium salt, specially designed for future, extensive production. Two distinct electricity mixes were examined, along with two different types of allocation methods for resources and emissions.
- One where the environmental and resource effects are apportioned among co-produces based on mass
- Another method allocates all the impact to the main product including sodium-ion battery along with its components and materials.
Need for Sodium-ion Batteries
Prof. Rickard Arvidsson said, “The materials we use in the batteries of the future will be important in order to be able to switch to renewable energy and a fossil-free vehicle fleet.”
According to the Critical Raw Materials Act by the European Commision, demand for critical materials for raw battery is expected to rise tremendously. This is expected as European countries are rapidly transitioning to electric vehicles and renewable energy systems.
Sodium-ion batteries that can revolutionize renewables as meeting the green transition’s demands will necessitate increased local production of batteries. It will also increase the demand for other innovative fossil-free technologies, and a constant supply of raw materials. However, this production poses a significant risk of supply disruptions due to the limited sources of raw materials.
“Lithium-ion batteries are becoming a dominant technology in the world, and they are better for the climate than fossil-based technology is, especially when it comes to transport. But lithium poses a bottleneck. You can’t produce lithium-based batteries at the same rate as you want to produce electric cars, and the deposits risk being depleted in the long term. Furthermore, the extraction of essential battery components, such as lithium and cobalt, is predominantly concentrated in limited global locations. This concentration presents a significant threat to the overall supply,” added Prof. Rickard.