Updated 2:00 PM EDT, Wed, May 20, 2020

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New Battery Tech Promises Huge Advance in Renewable Energy Storage

The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory campus at Richland, Washington.

(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

A new battery electrode that combines liquid-state sodium and cesium to significantly improve the safety, efficiency and life span of sodium-beta batteries has been developed by researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington.

 If it were to be scaled up successfully, the technology would be able to help build a smart electric grid that could efficiently tap renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar power, according to Gizmag.

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Renewables are currently providing more and more power as new facilities are built to harness the unlimited energy they provide. For renewable to become more cost-effective, however, the grid infrastructure needs to be better-developed ahead of time.

The development of capable, flexible and cheap batteries is needed to store the discontinuously-generated power so it can be released even when the wind isn't blowing and the Sun isn't shining.

A prospective candidate for renewable energy storage media are sodium-beta batteries, also known as NBBs or Na-beta batteries.

NBBs, which have a lot of flexibility, can store power ranging from a few kilowatt-hours to several megawatt-hours and have high energy densities.

In these batteries, sodium ions are transported with the use of a solid ceramic electrolyte membrane between a negative electrode consisting of sodium and a positive electrode such as a metal-halogen compound.

Present sodium-beta batteries, however, aren't as cheap, safe or as durable as they should be since they require temperatures of at least 660 degrees Fahrenheit (350 degrees Celsius) to operate.

Researchers at PNNL have solved a number of the problems that hinder NBBs by creating a new liquid electrode. The team used a cesium-sodium alloy as their cathode.

This lets the battery function at much lower temperatures, making them significantly safer, more durable and easier to make.

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