Sparc reveals ‘exceptional’ sodium ion battery results

A lab researcher holding a full-cell sodium-ion battery pouch (sparc)
A researcher holding a full-cell sodium-ion battery pouch

Sparc Technologies Limited and Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have announced exceptional initial results from their joint project targeting the development of sustainably sourced hard carbon anode material for sodium ion batteries (SIBs).

A high performing, low cost, sustainably sourced anode material for SIBs will meet a need for what is a growing alternative battery technology. Current hard carbon materials are typically sourced from carbonaceous precursors such as pitch (a by-product of the oil and gas industry) which undergo lengthy heating at high temperatures.

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This is a very energy consuming process, which combined with using a fossil fuel derived feedstock, has a significant environmental footprint. Furthermore, with China being the world’s dominant supplier of hard carbon materials, the process under development with QUT aims to provide an alternative western supply of anode materials thereby reducing sovereign risk for SIB cell manufacturers.

Sparc Technologies executive chair Stephen Hunt said, “Sparc is very encouraged by the positive results from its research program with QUT into the development of sustainable hard carbon anode materials for sodium ion batteries. The combination of green bio-waste feedstock and faster, less energy intensive processing with a very high capacity anode material offers attractive potential for further research and development.

“Equally as exciting is the continued progress of sodium ion batteries towards commercialisation as evidenced by recent activities of major global battery producers including CATL, BYD and Reliance Industries. Sparc is well positioned as one of the only ASX listed companies actively targeting sodium ion batteries.”

In line with the project schedule, QUT has delivered the first project milestone report which describes the results of SIB half-cell battery testing and material characterisation for a sustainably sourced anode material under a range of process conditions. While further optimisation, testing and process development work is required, reversible capacities for a batch of materials under the same testing conditions exceeded 535mAh/g and averaged 477mAh/g across five separate trials. This was well beyond (~45% higher) the benchmark of 330mAh/g set at the beginning of the research program based on what is believed to represent commercial hard carbon anode materials (See Figure 1).

Significant progress has been made since commencing the research project with QUT in September 2022. Preliminary optimisation of the process conditions under which the hard carbon is produced has been performed and the initial results demonstrate substantial improvement in reversible capacities of the anode materials in a SIB versus traditional pyrolysis methods.

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Sparc is planning to further explore the magnitude of energy and cost savings achievable through using the proposed processing route over existing hard carbon materials via life cycle analysis and economic modelling over the coming months.

SIBs are a very prospective alternative battery chemistry to lithium ion, particularly suited to energy storage markets. Well known and documented advantages of SIBs versus lithium ion batteries include lower cost and greater availability of raw materials; safety and ease of transport; greater operating temperature range; and similar manufacturing techniques to lithium ion batteries.

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