Friday 14 July 2023

Sodium-ion Batteries - How Plastic Waste Helps to Produce Carbon Anodes

Sodium-ion Batteries - How Plastic Waste Helps to Produce Carbon Anodes

Hello and welcome to this new blog post in which we discuss the role of plastic waste in making Sodium-ion batteries.

Why Sodium-ion batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries have established themselves as the major power supplier for electric cars and high performance polymers play a key role in making such batteries as well as maintaining the safety during use (for example battery cages). 

In past years a new type of battery gained traction. It is the Sodium-ion battery. Chinese automotive company BYD established a  joint venture to begin mass producing its nascent Sodium-ion EV batteries. So there is definitely some momentum in this kind of battery. The idea is to use such batteries for low range cars and have the long range handled by Lithium-ion batteries. 

What are the major advantages of Sodium-ion batteries?

Cost advantage: Since we need Natrium instead of Lithium, supply is secure and at a predictable price level too. No cobalt or copper current collector is needed. 

Safety: Sodium-ion batteries showed excellent testing results. They are safe at low temperatures and as well as at higher temperatures which allows to reduce the safety installations in the car. Furthermore, they can be transported and stored in their low energy state at 0V.

Sustainability: Sodium is an abundant element and we do not need Lithium, cobalt or toxic lead for such kind of batteries anymore. 

Scalability: They have the same operation principle and format as Lithium-ion batteries and can be manufactured at existing battery plants. Also, different chemistries are possible. 

Downsides: They are around two thirds heavier compared to Lithium-ion batteries, however research is on it to lower the weight and increase performance. 

PS, PA, and PET - the potential recycling materials for carbon anodes

Researchers at the Department of Chemical Engineering at Imperial College London propose the formation of hard-carbon electrode materials through the autogenic conversion of plastics waste at temperatures between 300°C to 700°C [2].

The focus is on recycling of Polystyrene (PS), Polyamide (PA), and Polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Increasing the carbon output of PS is done over cross-linking it in a first step. Then carbonization at 1000°C and 1500°C takes place using up to five cycles. The next steps in their project include the finding of the optimum autoclave temperature for each polymer and generating a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) to compare the plastic waste based carbon anode to standard industrial made carbon anodes. 


Sodium-ion batteries will be found in some of the EV segments (lower range EVs). It could be demonstrated that an everyday plastic waste can be used to make curial elements, the carbon anodes, in Sodium-ion batteries.

Thanks for reading and #findoutaboutplastics



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[2] "Sodium-ion Batteries using Carbon Anodes Derived from Plastic Waste" by Dr Maria Crespo Ribadeneyra , Department of Chemical Engineering.




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