Metallic sodium (Na) has been regarded as one of the most attractive anodes for Na-based rechargeable batteries due to its high specific capacity, low working potential, and high natural abundance. However, several important issues hinder the practical application of the metallic Na anode, including its high reactivity with electrolytes, uncontrolled dendrite growth, and poor processability. Metal nitrates are common electrolyte additives used to stabilize the solid electrolyte interphase (SEI) on Na anodes, though they typically suffer from poor solubility in electrolyte solvents. To address these issues, a Na/NaNO3 composite foil electrode was fabricated through a mechanical kneading approach, which featured uniform embedment of NaNO3 in a metallic Na matrix. During the battery cycling, NaNO3 was reduced by metallic Na sustainably, which addressed the issue of low solubility of an SEI stabilizer. Due to the supplemental effect of NaNO3, a stable SEI with NaNxOy and Na3N species was produced, which allowed fast ion transport. As a result, stable electrochemical performance for 600 h was achieved for Na/NaNO3||Na/NaNO3 symmetric cells at a current density of 0.5 mA cm–2 and an areal capacity of 0.5 mAh cm–2. A Na/NaNO3||Na3V2(PO4)2O2F cell with active metallic Na of ∼5 mAh cm–2 at the anode showed stable cycling for 180 cycles. In contrast, a Na||Na3V2(PO4)2O2F cell only displayed less than 80 cycles under the same conditions. Moreover, the processability of the Na/NaNO3 composite foil was also significantly improved due to the introduction of NaNO3, in contrast to the soft and sticky pure metallic Na. Mechanical kneading of soft alkali metals and their corresponding nitrates provides a new strategy for the utilization of anode stabilizers (besides direct addition into electrolytes) to improve their electrochemical performance.
The authors would like to thank the support by National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 520721137, 51802105). Z.W.S. acknowledges the support of the Singapore National Research Foundation (NRF-NRFF2017-04). The authors would like to thank the Analytical and Testing Center of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and Wuhan National Laboratory for Optoelectronics of Huazhong University of Science and Technology for providing the facilities to conduct the characterization.