Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Committee Chair

Ismail B Celik

Committee Co-Chair

Vyacheslav Akkerman

Committee Member

Harry Finklea

Committee Member

Xingbo Liu

Committee Member

Nianqiang Wu


Due to global climate change and the desire to decrease greenhouse gas emissions, large scale energy storage has become a critical issue. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar will not be a viable energy source unless the storage problem is solved. One of the practical and cost effective solutions for this problem is sodium sulfur batteries. These batteries are comprised of liquid electrode materials suspended in porous media and operate at relatively high temperatures (>300°C). The sodium anode and the sulfur/sodium-polysulfide cathode are separated by a solid electrolyte made of beta-alumina or NASICON material. Due to the use of porous materials in the electrodes, capillary pressure and the combination of capillary action and gravity become important.;Capillary pressure has a strong dependence on the wetting phase (liquid electrode material) saturation; therefore sharp concentration gradients can occur between the inert gas and the electrode liquid, especially within the cathode. These concentration gradients can have direct impacts on the electrodynamics of the battery as they may produce areas of high electrical potential variation, which can decrease efficiency and even cause failures. Then, thermal management also becomes vital since the electrochemistry and material properties are sensitive to temperature gradients.;To investigate these phenomena in detail and to attempt to improve upon battery design a multi-dimensional, multi-phase code has been developed and validated in this study. Then a porous media flow model is implemented. Transport equations for charge, mass and heat are solved in a time marching fashion using finite volume method. Material properties are calculated and updated as a function of time. The porous media model is coupled with the continuity equation and a separate diffusion equation for the liquid sodium in the melt. The total mass transport model is coupled with charge transport via Faraday's law.;Results show that overpotential is significantly higher in the porous region of the cathode as was predicted by models in the literature. Overpotential is also high on the electrolyte surface and wall. Alternative electrode configurations with high resistive layers recommended by previous researchers also produce areas of high potential gradient. New electrode designs including conductivity gradients and porous media property variations are simulated and compared to previous designs and then recommendations are made for optimum cell operating conditions.