Sci-Fi Visions

Chemists discover key reaction mechanism behind the highly touted sodium-oxygen battery

  • Sodium-oxygen batteries are considered by many to be a particularly promising metal-oxygen battery combination. Although less energy dense than lithium-oxygen cells, they can be recharged with more than 93 per cent efficiency and are cheap enough for large-scale electrical grid storage.
  • The key lies in Nazar’s group discovery of the so-called proton phase transfer catalyst. By isolating its role in the battery’s discharge and recharge reactions, Nazar and colleagues were not only able to boost the battery’s capacity, they achieved a near-perfect recharge of the cell. When the researchers eliminated the catalyst from the system, they found the battery no longer worked.
  • Unlike the traditional solid-state battery design, a metal-oxygen battery uses a gas cathode that takes oxygen and combines it with a metal such as sodium or lithium to form a metal oxide, storing electrons in the process. Applying an electric current reverses the reaction and reverts the metal to its original form.

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