Low-Cost Na-Ion Batteries

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Materials Science


The present proposal relates to the use of low-cost carbon materials produced via the " Hydrothermal Carbonization" as negative electrodes in Na-ion batteries.

Prof. Titirici's group has developed a low temperature hydrothermal method to produce carbon materials from biomass This technology has lead to several patent applications (via the Max-Planck Society patent unit office) and the formation of a spin-off company, Carbon Solutions, in Germany who is currently commercializing such HTC materials with 8 eur/kg. The group of Prof. Titirici has developed a large number of applications for these hydrothermal carbon (HTC) materials such as water purification, gas storage, soil fertilization, solid fuel, electrodes in energy storage devices, lectrocatalysis as well as heterogenous catalysis.

Recently, Prof Titirici group demonstrated that such HTC materials derived from glucose could be successfully used as negative electrodes in room temperature Na-ion batteries with a capacity of up to 250 mAh/g and excellent rate capability. Using such low cost but highly efficient electrodes in Na-ion batteries is very important as this can accelerate the commercialization of Na-ion batteries. Although room temperature Na-ion batteries (NIBs) represent one of the most viable, low cost and safe options for integration into the smart grid, their commercialization is hindered by the high cost and poor performance of their constituent electrode materials.

This collaboration between School of Materials Science and Engineering at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Johnson Matthey (JM) will advance the development of low cost and highly performing carbon electrodes based on abundant and renewable resources for NIBs. This will accelerate the development of low-cost individual components for Na-ion batteries which could be later integrated into a whole-system approach, creating a new generation of affordable stationary battery systems based on abundant Na-resources and biomass derived low cost carbon electrodes. This will
enable future large-scale stationary energy storage for balancing energy generation and demand thus improving the security of supply for low cost, CO2-free energy.

We have previously shown the feasibility of this concept. This proposal will be based on this previous experience and will advance future progress in low cost, efficient anodes in Na-ion batteries.

Planned Impact

The proposed project aims to develop novel and low cost biomass-derived carbon anodes with high performance energy storage in Na-ion batteries. Its findings will benefit the academic community, primarily scientists in the fields of carbon
based materials and their applications in renewable energy, in particular in energy storage. However, as this project is based on a strong collaboration with industry, it has the potential to lead to the future commercialization of this type of electrodes and of Na-ion batteries for future stationary energy storage. In particular, we will focus on the application of such technologies for the future electrical grid development in order to solve the energy trilema identifies by TSB: reducing emissions improving security of supply reducing cost.
Who will benefit from this research and how will they do so?
A. Economic and societal impact.
Industry and companies requiring efficient energy storage technologies and efficient and low cost rechargeable batteries will be a direct beneficiary of the technology developed. The specific application that we will explore, in collaboration with
Johnson and Matthey (JM) will be to prove the feasibility of low cost carbons produced via the hydrothermal carbonization of biomass as efficient anodes in Na-ion batteries.

Energy storage technologies are seen as an important tool in achieving a low-carbon future. The International Energy Agency estimates under a scenario where variable renewable electricity such as wind and solar reaches between 27% and
44% of electricity production in 2050, an estimated 310 GW of additional storage would be needed, which make up 85% of electricity demand in 2050. According to the joint European association for Storage Energy and European Energy Research Alliance, sodium-ion batteries have the potential to provide the low cost and high safety necessary for grid applications, with cost claims with cost claims competitive with lead-acid (~40% less than lithium-ion) and cycle life exceeding 5,000 cycles and 100% depth of discharge.

The carbon materials producing industry will also benefit from this project, as we will develop a novel approach for producing low cost carbons with control over their properties. This will allow a different processing of biomass enabling high performance properties to be achieved. Hence more advanced manufacturing processes of carbon-based materials will be accessible.
Likewise, the biomass producers such as the farming sector will also have a benefit as this new developed technology will allow them to use their agricultural wastes differently, for the production of high end materials for renewable energy applications.
B. The public.
On a longer time scale, the public will benefit from findings of this project as its implications in the field of a constant and affordable supply of renewable energy. JM has already successfully marketed a range of energy storage devices that are
of direct interest to the public. The company's strategy is to diversify the range of technologies they can offer with the main purpose of improving their performance and reducing their costs.
Description This award for one year long feasibility project aimed to develop low cost and highly performing electrode materials for sodium-ion batteries based on abundant sodium resources and biomass derived low cost carbon electrodes and establish solid testing protocols. Main tasks, substasks and also milestones were set under work packages between the collaborators. The tasks were simultaneously undertaken and further modifications on the electrode materials were done throughout the project depending on the results of the electrochemical testings. The promising results in terms of electrochemical performances show the materials's potential use as electrodes in Na-ion batteries and are believed to be close to the level required for practical applications.
Exploitation Route The project was a feasibility study to identify materials and processes suitable for sodium-ion batteries. A lot of significant knowledge has been developed during the project length. However, further efforts are needed to be able to have a material that can enter a market. The next step will involve more R&D work including materials development and scale up, testing in larger cell formats, integration into modules, packs, and demonstrator systems for evaluation by end users. Further funding will be necessary and various sources will be investigating e.g. Horizon 2020 and Innovate UK.
Sectors Creative Economy,Education,Energy,Environment
Description It opened up a new production line of low cost Na-ion batteries in China
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Energy
Impact Types Societal
Description Advanced Newton Fellowship collaborative project with Prof. Yong Sheng Hu from Chinese Academy of Science, Institute of Physics, Beijing
Amount £150,000 (GBP)
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 03/2015 
End 03/2018
Title Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC) 
Description Hydrothermal Carbonisation (HTC), is a wet biomass thermochemical conversion technology. The biomass or biomass precursor is placed in a closed reactor (i.e. autoclave) and treated at about 230°C under self-generated pressure. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact In this project, the hard carbon materials for the anode part was produced via HTC. The electrochemical results in terms of battery performance was successful for these samples. 
Description Johnson Matthey Battery Technology Centre 
Organisation Johnson Matthey
Department Johnson Matthey Technology Centre
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution QMUL was responsible for the development of anode materials for Na-ion batteries from biomass derived precursors in terms of synthesis, characterisation and performance analysis. QM's involvement in the project was definitely beneficial as the vast expertise of Prof Titirici's in the synthesis of sustainable and low cost carbons with various characteristics (pore size, functionality, level of graphitisation) was constructive on the decision making on the progress of developing the anode materials and corresponding half cell testings.
Collaborator Contribution Johnson Matthey's involvement in the LOCONIBs project was on the development of the cathode materials and the half and full cell testing. They have succesfully achieved the milestones set, which were: - To develop cathodes materials based on reduced or substitution of critical raw materials with more abundant, lower cost, elements while maintaining the performance - To develop a protocol to test sodium ion batteries - To investigate ways to maximise the electrochemical performance.
Impact Significant results have been achieved in this one year long feasibility project for the development of low cost electrodes for sodium ion batteries. The promising results in terms of electrochemical performances show the materials's potential use as electrodes in Na-ion batteries and are believed to be close to the level required for practical applications. Significant knowledge and experience have been gained concerning materials preparation, scaling up and testing protocols. Additionally, the project was presented in UK Energy Storage (UKES) Conference and an entry was made for Rushlight Awards. Excellent feedback was received from both. A poster prize was achieved in UKES with the title of "Biomass-Derived Low Cost Negative Electrodes in Na-Ion Batteries." Three manuscripts are also being worked on to be published in specialised journals
Start Year 2016
Description Rushlight Awards 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Rushlight Awards are an established event recognizing the cleantech stars and sustainability winners. It offers competitive awards to recognise and reward organisations throughout the UK and Ireland that have developed a specific technology, process or initiative that will have a significant beneficial impact on the environment.We have attended this show, and an entry form for the awards was made and also a presentation was given during the event. Many companies from industry/business and also governmental organisations were present.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://www.rushlightevents.com/rushlight-awards/