New salt-based battery a leap for green energy

August 8, 2012

Murdoch University researchers have come up with a potential solution to one of sustainable energy’s greatest challenges: power storage for use in non-generation times.

According to project leaders Drs Manickam Minakshi and Danielle Meyrick of Murdoch’s School of Chemical and Mathematical Sciences, while the efficiency of wind and solar technologies has improved rapidly, one major problem has remained unsolved.

“The central obstacle facing sustainable energy is unreliability. Wind turbines don’t turn on a still day. Solar doesn’t work at night and can be hampered in the day by cloud, dust or snow coverage,” Dr Minakshi said.

“To provide power at non-generation times, excess energy needs to be stored in batteries, but storage technologies now being considered, such as molten salt or molten sulfur, work at high temperatures, making them expensive and impractical.”

“Our water-based sodium-ion battery has shown excellent potential for affordable, low-temperature storage.”

Dr Minakshi said he was drawn to sodium because its chemical properties were similar to lithium, the element that powers most portable electronic devices.

His challenge was to find material for cathodes and anodes capable of accommodating sodium’s ionic size – which is 2.5 times larger than that of lithium.

Ions travel out of the cathode and into the anode to form a current. As an imperfect analogy, you can think of them as mesh filters that ions pass through. We had to find materials with larger gaps in their mesh,” Dr Minakshi said.

Dr Minakshi tested various metals and phosphates, eventually finding success with manganese dioxide as the cathode and a novel olivine sodium phosphate as the anode. The result is a safe, cost-effective battery with high energy density.

“While the technology is too bulky for portable devices, it has excellent potential for large-scale use, including storing energy from wind turbines and solar farms for later feeding into local electricity grids, as well as use in industry,” Dr Minakshi said.

The battery has the added advantage of being based on globally abundant and affordable sodium, iron and manganese – putting green energy potential in the hands of the developing world.

“Our research has reached the stage where we’re ready to move beyond our lab towards larger-scale commercialisation. This is a very exciting time.”

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Comments (32 responses)

Paul August 9, 2012

Great news every success with your research. We may be looking at revolution in how we store and use energy. Thank you for your efforts.

Amrit Singh Thapa August 9, 2012

Great Findings. Revolution in Energy Storage System.

Marko August 10, 2012

Thank you!! Looking forward for it on the market!!! August 10, 2012

Quite interesting, but there's little revealed about the feasibility of the technology as well as the research paper that could provide more information about the currently achieved effectiveness.

Ian Sanderson August 10, 2012

This sounds extremely encouraging news, specially given the availability of the materials needed! How soon before this can be commercialised? I'd be delighted if we could explore using this new development (say) for our batery backups in the datacentres!

Ian Sanderson August 10, 2012

(Sorry for my typos above!!)

Darren August 10, 2012

Congratulations on your success so far. Good luck in the future and I look forward to your technology being implemented worldwide. The winds of change are blowing… Well salt water laiden winds of freo anyway ;-).

Santhan August 11, 2012

Wonderful news. Surely a university would consider "open sourcing" the plans prior to commercializing? The true reach and success of this innovation can only be measured in implementation rate. "Open sourcing" build instructions would make this a phenomenal success, not just for this institute (publicity etc.) but also for the whole world.

Jessie August 12, 2012

Your work and efforts are commendable. Hopefully this will be encouraging the development of further wind turbines. The added bonus of wind farms are that they help preserve farmland, unlike housing developments. This great news for our future, thank you.

Gary August 13, 2012

Great news. The ability to store solar generated electricity would make the use of domestic panels more attractive.

Gerard Anselmi August 13, 2012

Awesome guys good effort, hopefully you are not like us and up against the big battery manufacturers instead of with them as we should be, it shouldn't be all about profits but it is. When resources become scarce maybe just maybe things will change 🙂 Thanks guys

cleaning services vermont August 17, 2012

Hello, just wanted to mention, I enjoyed this post. It was funny. keep on posting!

Tiante T August 19, 2012

Great news and thanks to these MU scientists.
I was a graduate of MU and would be happy and proud to see this new product in the market in the very near future. As I am working for a local solar energy company, there is no doubt this new type of battery will find its way coming to our country. Keep up the good work.

Sam August 21, 2012

Great research and wonderful news, well done MU researchers.

The potential to reach the developing world with such technology is very attractive.

I would encourage efforts to be made to keep the technology manufacturing local so that Australia (especially WA) can develop its manufacturing economy (instead of relying purely on selling chunks of pig iron) and to maintain the integrity of our intellectual property. A transition to a knowledge-based economy relies on this.

Don't let what happened to the solar panel industry happen for this tech!

Hugh Sharman August 30, 2012

Well wishers will need some convincing evidence about the claims made in this press release before they rise from the sceptic's chair. We have heard all about the "affordable battery" since Thomas Edison noted, in February 1883, that

"The storage battery is, in my opinion, a catchpenny, a sensation, a mechanism for swindling the public by stock companies. The storage battery is one of those peculiar things which appeals to the imagination, and no more perfect thing could be desired by stock swindlers than that very selfsame thing. … Just as soon as a man gets working on the secondary battery it brings out his latent capacity for lying. … Scientifically, storage is all right, but, commercially, as absolute a failure as one can imagine."

Gary September 3, 2012

Once this battery is commercialized, I would love to know where to get it!

eco heating September 8, 2012

It really is a great idea and I will have a trial of this idea as soon as I get the pattern.I’ll bookmark your web site and take the feeds also… I’m happy to find numerous useful info here in the post. We need to work out on more strategies in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . .

Tony September 19, 2012

If this can be turned into a low cost alternative to current battery technology for stationary systems, it may do more than support large scale renewable. The placement of large capacity storage in every street or power substation would enable truly distributed power with solar PV on domestic roofs.

darklite September 19, 2012

This is tremendous news! It couldn't have come at a better time. I'm praying this breakthrough technology quickly moves-out of research on-into production. The world can't wait another day!

I've posted the link to this story at enenews' alternative-energy forum:

Phil September 25, 2012

How is this different, if it is, to the one described in Technology Review. Are they licensing the technology?
New Battery Could Be Just What the Grid Ordered. It goes on
A new battery developed by Aquion Energy in Pittsburgh uses simple chemistry—a water-based electrolyte and abundant materials such as sodium and manganese

Rob Payne September 26, 2012

Response from Dr Manickam Minakshi: The mechanism of our sodium battery (at Murdoch University) is based on a reduction-oxidation mechanism rather than a electrochemical supercapacitor as that observed by Aquion. Hence, we have achieved a splendid energy density (4 times that of lead-acid battery) with cheaper cost than that of Aquion.

norm matchett October 29, 2012

I have read of similar system ….there two large tanks, 100/200 lt,filled water and added sodium plus ??….the trick being to rotate charge..The gentleman drained the discharged batteries from equipment into charging tank and refilled from charged tank..With wheeled machinery, car / tractor etc; is weight and cubic volume of optimal battery bank..
E.G; car to carry 4 adult and 200kg freight 100km, don't forget you've to get back home …How much battery to plow i hectare??

For domestic ( average home))this system is good plus,,utilizing both solar and wind one would have optimal charge.. Naturally climatic and topographic location is taken into account.
Just this week read of a calafornia company developing a 3 dimentional solar collector with over 200% of output than same area of flat…Flat of course has only optimal output 'twixt 9am and 4pm on a good day,,,,I've often questioned,, why the panels don't follow the sun,,might pickup an extra 4 hours ???
In Portugal there is a solar steam power plant,they store steam for over night generation….

I am impressed people ,,,it's great when you think outside the square…..

norm matchett October 29, 2012

continuance if previous,, old age ,,forgot..

Wind power…there are many vertical axis mills more suited..
rather than great towers,,utilize thermal vortex units these are close to ground and inconspicuos …on very still times you can light a very small fire in base… we all know // hot air rises // good way to get rid of organic waste…or put your compost generator there..
I have a friend who charges a couple of 12 v batteries from generators he has installed in a couple of whirly birds on his roof //hot air //…runs a few LEDs surprising how much light…I have a couple of ideas on vortex generators utilizing Ocean surge,,that is rthere forever…

jan edens November 14, 2012

Why is hydrogen H2 not used as energy source? In 1948 I learned that an electric current split H2O into oxygen and hydrogen. Solar cells can make direct current and a pump could be driven by a solardriven steam engine.

Simon Brooks February 24, 2013

Its great to see Australian innovation in energy storage research. I'm curious to know how things are progressing 6 months or so after the main press release. Have you managed to prototype for commercialisation? Have you had any success in gaining backing for commercialisation? I have been following Aquion Energy's progress for around 18 months and as amazing as their product is (I understand yours is potentially even better), what is even more amazing is how they have so quickly garnered support from Regional and State Government and gained venture capital to commercialise their product. That's the US for you… All the best for the long road ahead; your product offers much for the future. This type of innovation will enable our transition into the new economy.

Manickam Minakshi February 25, 2013

Hi Simon,

Many thanks for visiting our site and your comments.

We are currently in the process of developing a prototype for the sodium battery, and continue with further developments to the chemistry in the laboratory, focusing in particular on hybrid (battery-capacitor) technology – with promising results so far.

Meanwhile we are trying to set up a company to build a prototype device and to take this into commercialization. We are still seeking financial support for this further developmental work.

Please let me know if you'd like further information. In the meantime, we'll keep you posted (if you leave us your contact details) on both prototype and chemistry developments as appropriate.

To get more details on our recent awards we received, please visit :

Best, Manickam

Guy Sanderson April 18, 2013

I would like to build and test one and then commercialise it. I have the equipment, space and contacts.

Praxidice August 19, 2013

I likewise would appreciate being kept up to date with information as its available. There is a possibility that some backing could be provided.

Donald Irvine November 29, 2014

I am interested to know where this technology is at as of November 2014 & whether its a small scale domestic capability yet?

Manickam January 19, 2015

Hi All,

Many thanks for your interest in our aqueous sodium battery technology. At the moment, we are working to protect the intellectual property developed at Murdoch University. Once this is done, in couple of months, we will develop the lab scale experiments to pilot scale. For which, we also seek some potential investors who wish to take part in our renewable energy storage system. If you are interested then please do not hesitate to contact us.

Best, Manickam

Janson March 25, 2015

At the moment this project is about 3 years behind the Aquion curve, which is already being manufactured and exported. Nevertheless there is plenty of space for low cost low impact storage devices, particularly for domestic solar grid-share use (given most domestic solar will still require periodic grid connectivity when low generation periods occur). Economic projections done to date suggest the initial sweet spot for a US/Australian average domestic dwelling storage unit is circa AUD10000 inclusive of charger, inverter and switching, with a unit cycle life of 3000 to 5000 cycles before replacement. This is based on a 5kw solar array for daytime charging and consumption. Aquion supported devices -will meet this pricing within 12 months providing the US economy keeps current improvements. I also suggest that you emulate Aquion/Siemens jv by getting into bed with one of industrial giants, of which Tata is definitely one and Mitsubishi the other.———–+ Best of luck!!!!!

Dan July 15, 2015

So sad, that every break through in science comes with a price tag. The march of capitalism will consume some much raw earth resources that earth itself will be unable to support human life , unless we start c-operating to make a better world instead of competing to see who can make the most $$$

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