Sodium Battery Technology Improves Performance and Safety

Imagination and innovation have always been in GE’s DNA. While exploring the expanded use of hybrid power in the rail, mining and marine industries, GE began to explore alternative battery technologies that could power large equipment such as locomotives, mining trucks and tugboats.

Scientists at GE Global Research Center identified sodium nickel technology as one of the more viable powering options, based on its record of safety, performance and cost competitiveness. GE Global Research scientists then partnered with engineers at GE Transportation to refine the sodium nickel technology, improving performance and extending its application.

The call was made to bet big on sodium batteries and GE invested$150 million to incubate and commercialize the new technology, effectively creating a start-up within the company. The resulting business, GE Energy Storage, is focused on delivering Durathon Battery products, which offer a safe, reliable and cost-effective option for a broad range of industries and uses.

GE’s Energy Storage business is redefining world-class for advanced ceramics manufacturing yield. The ceramic tube is a key component of sodium batteries and accounts for about two-thirds of the manufacturing process. The plant has quickly ramped up production; we’re shipping batteries all over the world to customers in Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, Bangladesh, Mongolia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the U.S., Japan and the UK.

The Durathon Battery factory in Schenectady, New York is breaking new ground in how big data, software and analytics are being applied to the manufacturing process. The factory has >10,000 sensors installed and plans to monitor sensor data from the products we sell in the field. We will know everything there is to know about our battery—what day it was made, the health of the equipment that produced it, how it was made, who made it—its entire genealogy, manufacturing history and use profile. Why? So we can correlate the variations in manufacturing and usage to product performance, accelerate learning and, ultimately, provide the customer with a better experience.