Technology

Our team of experts have identified several families of novel, advanced energy storage materials, focusing on low-cost, sustainable resources

Background to lithium and sodium batteries

Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were brought to the market in the early 1990s because they had higher energy densities compared with conventional batteries at that time. As a consequence, this led to a significant acceleration in the miniaturisation and portability of rechargeable appliances such as laptops and mobile phones. In today’s technology-driven world, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t carry one of them about their person on a day to day basis.

Li-ion batteries provide a useful source of energy for all sorts of applications, from small-scale portable devices to the newly emerging electric vehicle market. In addition, in order to make better use of energy in the future, Li-ion batteries are predicted to play an important role in the introduction of large-scale applications such as grid storage.

Unfortunately, lithium is a relatively rare metal and difficult to recover from its ores which leads to its relatively high cost.

Li-ion battery production is still increasing and is predicted to increase much further, with government incentives towards increasing the number of electric vehicles on the roads. This huge demand will not only put a heavy strain on lithium as a natural resource, but its price may rise as a result of the locations of lithium reserves.

Li Consumption Graph - Filled

Graph representing the annual and forecasted consumption of lithium carbonate equivalent, based on data from http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/images/2010/Mar/lithium_image002.jpg.

 

In contrast, sodium’s natural abundance in the earth’s crust is much higher than that of lithium
(~ 2.6 % for Na vs. ~ 0.005 % for Li), making sodium much cheaper, more readily available and more environmentally sustainable. The figure below, taken from the US Geological Survey, shows the relative abundance of elements in the earth’s upper continental crust, normalised to the amount of silicon. This figure shows clearly that sodium is one of the most abundant metals in this series. Sodium is also known to be the most abundant metal in seawater.

Technology Figure

(Reference: Gordon B. Haxel, Sara Boore, and Susan Mayfield from USGS; vectorized by User:michbich (http://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2002/fs087-02/) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Until very recently, the potential of sodium-ion (Na-ion) technology, which makes use of the much more commonly available element sodium, has been overlooked. Faradion has led a reappraisal of Na-ion technology and has developed Na-ion cathodes which, together with other proprietary cell constituents, provide a drop-in replacement for Li-ion batteries. We are in the process of optimising a wide range of materials that give similar performance to Li-ion materials, but at a fraction of the cost.

Faradion already has an impressive IP portfolio, which is growing rapidly as the team make further discoveries.