Addressing Challenges: The Future of Sodium Cell Technology Development

Addressing Challenges: The Future of Sodium Cell Technology Development

Lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) have long been the backbone of rechargeable battery technology, serving various applications in consumer electronics, electric vehicles, and energy storage. Yet, mounting concerns over lengthy supply chains, reliance on subsidies, lithium scarcity, environmental impacts of mining, and safety hazards have sparked calls for technological innovation. Sodium-ion batteries (SIBs) have emerged as a strong contender, offering a potentially more sustainable and cost-effective solution.

The History of Sodium-Ion Batteries : A Long Road to Relevance

The concept of SIBs has been around since the 1970s, but research efforts initially lagged behind LIB development. However, in recent years, advancements in materials science and growing concerns about LIB limitations have reignited interest in SIBs. Research institutions and companies around the world are actively exploring ways to improve their performance and viability.

The Appeal of Sodium-Ion Batteries:

India, a nation grappling with severe air pollution and ambitious climate goals, is witnessing a surge in the demand for renewable energy and Sodium-Ion Batteries are the perfect partner to cater this demand. Why does India need Sodium-Ion Batteries?

  • Pollution: India consistently ranks among the most polluted countries globally, with air pollution linked to over 1.2 million deaths annually. Renewable energy offers a crucial solution to curb air pollution from coal-fired power plants. Sodium-ion batteries, with their potential for lower cost and wider availability compared to lithium-ion batteries, can be instrumental in large-scale energy storage solutions for renewable energy sources like solar and wind.
  • Climate Action Imperative: India, as a signatory to the Paris Agreement, has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. Transitioning to renewable energy is key to meeting these ambitious climate goals. Sodium-ion batteries, with their potential for a more sustainable and ethical supply chain compared to lithium-ion, can significantly contribute to India’s green energy push.
  • Energy Security Concerns: India relies heavily on imported fossil fuels, making it vulnerable to price fluctuations. Renewable energy sources like solar and wind offer greater energy independence and security.

Hence, Sodium-ion batteries can be a game-changer for large-scale grid storage applications.

Recent Initiatives Fostering Growth in Sodium-Ion Technology in India:

With the growing EV ambitions and focus on clean energy, India has become a hotbed for SIB research and development. Here’s a glimpse into some recent developments:

India Charges Forward: A 3-Point Plan for a Greener Future

  1. Government Drives Clean Energy: Indian Govt. is supporting and pushing the renewable energy sector in many very effective ways. It has launched several programmes like- Mission Innovation supports advanced batteries, FAME-II subsidises EVs, PLI schemes incentivize solar and storage investments, and the Green Hydrogen Mission explores clean fuel alternatives. “Surya Ghar” empowers citizens with rooftop solar, fostering a renewable energy ecosystem.
  2. Corporates Invest in Green: From battery technology to renewable energy giants, corporations are actively participating in India’s clean energy revolution. These investments are crucial for building domestic manufacturing capabilities and achieving long-term sustainability goals.
  3. EVs for a Cleaner Future: India aims for 30% electric vehicle penetration by 2030, backed by FAME-II subsidies and a focus on expanding charging infrastructure and promoting electric two-wheelers. PLI schemes further incentivize investments in the EV sector, driving its growth and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Current Challenges of SIBs:

While the future of SIBs appears promising, but there are still some hurdles remain:

  • Energy Density: While advancements are being made, SIBs generally exhibit lower energy density compared to high-performance LIBs. This may limit their application in certain EV segments requiring longer range.
  • Immature Supply Chain: Since Sodium-ion cells remain in the laboratory phase and lack industrialization, sourcing raw materials for battery production poses a significant challenge. Dependence on Nickel, Vanadium, and other rare earth materials could escalate production costs. Uneverse is tackling this issue by eschewing rare earth materials and establishing a supply chain using indigenous raw materials to reduce costs.
  • Insufficient Standardisation: While Sodium-ion batteries boast a safe chemical composition for transportation and usage, the absence of standardised guidelines for both transport and user protocols stems from inadequate research. Currently, Lithium-Ion standards are applied to Sodium-ion batteries for both transport and usage. To address safety and related concerns, Uneverse, in partnership with KGP IIT, is conducting thorough research before commercialization.
  • Form Factor Compatibility: Sodium-ion batteries lack standardised form factors, unlike conventional options such as coin cells, pouch cells, or cylindrical cells, hindering commercialization. Additionally, certain Sodium-ion battery chemistries feature wide voltage ranges that are not inherently compatible. Addressing this challenge requires further research to streamline the adoption process of Sodium-ion batteries.

Addressing the Challenges:

Extensive research is ongoing to address these challenges. Here are some promising areas of focus:

  • Novel Electrode Materials: Scientists are exploring new materials for both anode and cathode electrodes to improve energy density and cycling performance.
  • Electrolyte Innovation: Research on solid-state electrolytes offers potential for improved stability and safety in SIBs.
  • Computational Modelling: Utilising advanced computational modelling can accelerate the discovery of new materials and optimise cell design.

How IIT Kharagpur and Uneverse Join Forces to Bring Made-in-India Sodium-Ion Batteries to Market

In a significant development for India’s clean energy future, the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur (IIT KGP) and Uneverse Mobility have signed an exclusive MOU to commercialise and further develop IIT KGP’s patented sodium-ion battery technology.

This collaboration aims to make sodium-ion batteries a reality for the Indian market. Through this program, we will:

  • Commercialise the Technology: Uneverse will work to bring IIT KGP’s sodium-ion battery technology to market, making it available for widespread adoption.
  • Develop Diverse Cell Formats: The program will focus on creating various cell sizes and configurations (form factors) to cater to different applications.
  • Source Local Materials: We have planned to utilise locally sourced electrode raw materials, promoting self-reliance and reducing dependence on foreign imports.
  • Indigenously Developed Technology: This collaboration proudly upholds the “Make in India” initiative. The core battery technology is entirely developed within India, showcasing domestic innovation.
  • Large-Scale Production: Uneverse Mobility will establish manufacturing facilities to achieve large-scale production of these sodium-ion batteries.
  • Advanced Technology Readiness: The technology has already reached a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 7, indicating a high level of development and readiness for commercialization.

Sodium-ion battery technology offers significant promise in tackling concerns associated with LIBs. With ongoing research, development, and government backing, India stands poised to spearhead the advancement of SIB technology. Uneverse is committed to driving this transition towards improvement. Will you join us on this journey?