The new system could lead to the development of safer and more efficient sodium-metal batteries, with applications in a wide range of sectors
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Spotted: In the race to develop greener and more efficient energy storage, sodium-metal batteries are a promising high-energy and low-cost option. At present, uncontrolled dendrite growth is a major impediment to their development. Dendrites are tree-like crystal structures that can penetrate the battery’s separator – a permeable membrane placed between the two electrodes that prevents short circuits. Now, a research collaboration led by Bristol university may have come up with a solution to this problem.
Together with Imperial College and University College London, the team has developed a separator made from cellulose nanomaterials that are derived from seaweed. The new separator is said to be more effective at controlling dendrite growth, which could pave the way for more widespread use of sodium-metal batteries.
The team’s findings were published in the journal of Advanced Materials. According to the study, the seaweed-derived separator is composed of negatively charged nanofibrils that can electrostatically repel dendrites. This effectively inhibits the growth of crystals at the sodium electrodes. The new separator is also said to be more thermally stable than other separators made from cellulose nanomaterials. This is an important property for batteries, as it prevents them from overheating and catching fire.
The next step will be to upscale production. The researchers believe that their work could lead to safer and more efficient sodium-metal batteries that could one day replace market-standard lithium-based technology.
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Written By: Katrina Lane