Can sodium-ion batteries replace trusty lithium-ion ones?

January 12, 2021

WASHINGTON, January 12, 2021 -- Sodium-ion batteries are a potential replacement for lithium batteries, but the anodes -- positively charged electrodes -- that work well for lithium-ion batteries don't provide the same level of performance for sodium-ion batteries.

Amorphous carbon, which lacks a crystalline structure, is known to be a useful anode, because it has defects and voids that can be used to store sodium ions. Nitrogen/phosphorus-doped carbon also offers appealing electrical properties.

In Applied Physics Reviews, from AIP Publishing, researchers in China from Zhejiang University, Ningbo University, and Dongguan University of Technology describe how they applied basic physical concepts of atomic scale to build high-performance anodes for sodium-ion batteries.

"Recent studies have shown that doped amorphous carbon, especially electron-rich element-doped amorphous carbon, is a good anode for sodium storage," said Tu. "But there was no common explanation for how sodium storage works or the doping effect of doped carbon."

On a quest for answers, the researchers used the concept of energy level orbitals to explain the affinity of pyrrolic nitrogen and a phosphorus-oxygen bond, their atomic interaction, electron distribution, and electron cloud configuration.

To get a closer look at distinct storage behavior, they applied first principles calculations, which is a method that uses basic physical quantities to calculate physical properties. It is based on electron density function, a concept of quantum mechanics that can reveal a crystal's molecular structure.

When they analyzed the electron distribution, system chemical parameters, and adsorption energies of sodium ions embedded within modified carbon materials, they found that pyrrolic nitrogen and phosphorus-oxygen bonds show real potential for sodium storage.

"Sodium ions tend to be stored within these two structures," Tu said.

The researchers designed a hydrothermal treatment to build the precursor of a phosphorus-oxygen structure, then doped a carbon anode with the dual electron-rich elements. It shows "enhanced electrochemical performance in cycle life and capacity for batteries," said Tu.

Their anode achieved a life cycle of 5,000 cycles, with an enhanced capacity of 220 milliampere hours/gram, and reduced capacity loss (0.003%/cycle).

"Our work fills the theoretical gap about the sodium storage behavior of electron-rich element-doped amorphous carbon and provides the experimental basis for using carbon," said Tu. "We provide directions to modify carbon materials for large-scale sodium-ion batteries."
The article "Sodium storage behavior of electron-rich element-doped amorphous carbon" is authored by Jiangping Tu, Yuqian Li, Liyuan Zhang, Xiuli Wang, Xinhui Xia, Dong Xie, and Changdong Gu. The article will appear in Applied Physics Reviews on Jan. 12, 2021 (DOI: 10.1063/5.0029686). After that date, it can be accessed at


Applied Physics Reviews features articles on significant and current topics in experimental or theoretical research in applied physics, or in applications of physics to other branches of science and engineering. The journal publishes both original research on pioneering studies of broad interest to the applied physics community, and reviews on established or emerging areas of applied physics. See

American Institute of Physics

Related Carbon Articles from Brightsurf:

The biggest trees capture the most carbon: Large trees dominate carbon storage in forests
A recent study examining carbon storage in Pacific Northwest forests demonstrated that although large-diameter trees (21 inches) only comprised 3% of total stems, they accounted for 42% of the total aboveground carbon storage.

Carbon storage from the lab
Researchers at the University of Freiburg established the world's largest collection of moss species for the peat industry and science

Carbon-carbon covalent bonds far more flexible than presumed
A Hokkaido University research group has successfully demonstrated that carbon-carbon (C-C) covalent bonds expand and contract flexibly in response to light and heat.

Metal wires of carbon complete toolbox for carbon-based computers
Carbon-based computers have the potential to be a lot faster and much more energy efficient than silicon-based computers, but 2D graphene and carbon nanotubes have proved challenging to turn into the elements needed to construct transistor circuits.

Cascades with carbon dioxide
Carbon dioxide (CO(2)) is not just an undesirable greenhouse gas, it is also an interesting source of raw materials that are valuable and can be recycled sustainably.

Two-dimensional carbon networks
Lithium-ion batteries usually contain graphitic carbons as anode materials. Scientists have investigated the carbonic nanoweb graphdiyne as a novel two-dimensional carbon network for its suitability in battery applications.

Can wood construction transform cities from carbon source to carbon vault?
A new study by researchers and architects at Yale and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research predicts that a transition to timber-based wood products in the construction of new housing, buildings, and infrastructure would not only offset enormous amounts of carbon emissions related to concrete and steel production -- it could turn the world's cities into a vast carbon sink.

Investigation of oceanic 'black carbon' uncovers mystery in global carbon cycle
An unexpected finding published today in Nature Communications challenges a long-held assumption about the origin of oceanic black coal, and introduces a tantalizing new mystery: If oceanic black carbon is significantly different from the black carbon found in rivers, where did it come from?

First fully rechargeable carbon dioxide battery with carbon neutrality
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are the first to show that lithium-carbon dioxide batteries can be designed to operate in a fully rechargeable manner, and they have successfully tested a lithium-carbon dioxide battery prototype running up to 500 consecutive cycles of charge/recharge processes.

How and when was carbon distributed in the Earth?
A magma ocean existing during the core formation is thought to have been highly depleted in carbon due to its high-siderophile (iron loving) behavior.

Read More: Carbon News and Carbon Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to