Sweden gives 300m more kronor to Lund neutron accelerator

The Swedish government announced plans on Tuesday to grant 300 million Swedish kronor extra to the ESS research institute in Lund, southern Sweden.

Sweden gives 300m more kronor to Lund neutron accelerator
The ESS building site in Lund, southern Sweden. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

“ESS is a strategically important investment for Swedish and European research, and the facility will contribute within climate research, life science, new materials and clean energy, areas where we see several of the world’s major societal challenges,” education minister Anna Ekström said on a visit to the facility. “ESS strengthens Sweden’s position as a leading research nation.”

“The construction delay caused by the pandemic must be addressed, and as host country, the Swedish government takes action with additional funding.”

In December, ESS – the European Spallation Source – announced that the research site would not be fully functional until 2027, four years after originally planned, while they simultaneously noted a substantial increase to the cost of the project.

“My assessment is that 300 million is what is needed to continue the process of completing the project,” Ekström continued. The new funds will be included in a budget proposal to be presented on Tuesday.

Newswire TT asked Ekström whether these funds would be taken from other research projects.

“No, this money comes from the budget for adult education, where not all funds have been used,” she replied.

Construction commenced on the ESS project in 2018, and the facility will have the world’s most powerful neutron source when it is finished. Sweden and Denmark are host countries for ESS, but there are representatives from 13 different countries on the ESS council.

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Sweden’s Northvolt develops new lithium-free battery

Swedish battery giant Northvolt has produced a new sodium-ion battery, a technology which could reduce dependence on China.

Sweden's Northvolt develops new lithium-free battery

“The world has put high hopes on sodium-ion, and I’m very pleased to say that we’ve developed a technology that will enable its widespread deployment to accelerate the energy transition,” Northvolt CEO Peter Carlsson said in a statement.

Sodium-ion batteries are viewed as a cheaper and in some respects safer alternative to the lithium-ion batteries widely used in both electronics and electric vehicles but which pose a fire risk if damaged.

While sodium-ion technology has been around for decades, it has lagged lithium-ion batteries in performance, and has not been able to provide comparable range for electric vehicles (EVs).

But there has been renewed interest in the technology as sodium-ion batteries can be manufactured without the need for certain costly metals whose processing is dominated by China, such as cobalt and lithium, which are used in batteries that power most EVs and consumer products like smartphones.

In 2021, Chinese EV battery giant CATL announced the launch of its first generation of sodium-ion batteries.

Northvolt said its new battery cell “is more safe, cost-effective, and sustainable than conventional nickel, manganese and cobalt (NMC) or iron phosphate (LFP) chemistries”, while being produced with “minerals such as iron and sodium that are abundant on global markets”.

“The low cost and safety at high temperatures make the technology especially attractive for energy storage solutions in upcoming markets including India, the Middle East and Africa,” Northvolt said.

The company said the new cell had a capacity of 160 watt-hours per kilogram.

In comparison, lithium-ion batteries seen in modern EVs have an energy density of over 250 watt-hours per kilogram.

Northvolt’s first generation of sodium-ion batteries was “designed primarily for energy storage”, the company said, adding future generations could also target “electric mobility solutions”.

Dependence on China has become an increasing concern for Europe and in mid-November the EU agreed a plan to secure its own supply of critical raw materials.