Dr. Manickam Minakshi

Dr. Manickam Minakshi

Dr. Minakshi’s expertise on energy storage materials and the ceramic synthesis and characterisation of lithium-ion/Sodium battery materials is widely regarded as the single most important innovation to this power source – transforming the primary battery to a secondary one.

Dr Minakshi is one of only 16 researchers to receive an Early Career Australia-India Fellowship from the Australian Academy of Science. The six-month Fellowship will see Dr. Minakshi work with the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, both top-tier research organisations.

Sodium-ion batteries are putting green energy potential in the hands of the developing world

Dr Manickam Minakshi from Murdoch University has developed a sodium-ion battery with the potential to increase the use of energy produced from sustainable sources.
 
The battery solves one of sustainable energy’s greatest challenges: power storage for use in non-generation times.
 
For sustainable energy to be a reliable power source excess energy needs to be stored in batteries to provide power at non-generation times. The storage technologies now being considered, such as molten salt or molten sulphur, work at high temperatures, making them expensive and impractical.
 
The water-based sodium-ion battery has shown excellent potential for affordable, low-temperature, environmentally friendly energy storage.
 
Project leader Dr Manickam Minakshi was drawn to sodium because its chemical properties were similar to lithium, the element that powers most portable electronic devices. The 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. The researchers had to find materials with larger gaps in their mesh.
 
Dr Minakshi tested various metals and phosphates, eventually finding success with manganese dioxide as the cathode and a novel maricite 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.
 
The battery has the added advantage of being based on globally abundant and affordable sodium (iron, nickel and manganese) putting green energy potential in the hands of the developing world.
 
The research has reached the stage where it’s ready to move beyond the lab towards larger-scale commercialisation that could see the batteries connected to domestic solar panels.

 

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