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EaglePicher receives follow-on $3M award from ARPA-E to continue work on planar sodium-beta batteries

EaglePicher Technologies, LLC, (EPT), an OM Group, Inc. company, and a leading supplier of specialty batteries and energy storage solutions for the defense, aerospace, medical, commercial and grid energy storage markets, will receive a $3-million award from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy to further develop their catalytic energy storage technology. Under their continued work with ARPA-E, EaglePicher will focus its research on improving scalability for their Sodium-Beta (Na-β) battery by developing an inexpensive stacked design to improve integration in renewable and grid storage applications.

The original ARPA-E effort, “Planar Na-Beta Batteries for Renewable Integration and Grid Applications,”—which received a $7.2-million award in 2009 (earlier post)—successfully demonstrated the concept of using thin BASE (Beta-Al2O3 Solid State Electrolyte) for reduced cell impedance and increased discharge rates while operating at reduced temperatures.

The original project, done in collaboration with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), strove to break from the traditional, tubular-shaped Na-Beta battery approach (earlier post) by using an inexpensive stacked design to improve performance at lower temperatures than state-of-the-art, leading to more inexpensive performance overall.

Ept
Overview of the original EPT/PNNL project on planar sodium batteries. Click to enlarge.

The new design simplified the manufacturing process for beta alumina membranes (a key enabling technology) greatly, enabling the production of scalable, modular batteries at half the cost of the existing tubular designs.

Battery models and market studies conducted for the project have shown that the new concept should meet multiple needs of the grid storage market. This follow-on project leverages EaglePicher’s original research with new technology being developed by another ARPA-E awardee, Material Systems and Research Inc. (MSRI).

The advanced design will demonstrate the new modular, scalable concept at the end of the eighteen-month project in 450 Wh cells.

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