The Lithium-Sodium Fusion: Revolutionizing Batteries with Salt Power

by Santiago Fernandez
battery technology revolution

Researchers at Arizona State University are revolutionizing battery technology through their innovative approach of combining lithium and sodium. By mixing these two elements, they aim to reduce costs, ensure a stable supply chain, and tackle the growing scarcity of lithium, which is in high demand due to its extensive use in lithium-ion batteries.

With their groundbreaking work on lithium-sodium fusion, scientists at Arizona State University are on the cusp of transforming battery technology. Their primary goal is to cut down costs and establish a reliable supply chain. Initial findings demonstrate the creation of a thermodynamically stable 10% sodium-lithium mixture, with expectations of reaching 20%.

The soaring demand for lithium, driven by its pivotal role in lithium-ion batteries for electric cars, computers, and portable devices, has elevated its value to that of gold. To combat this situation, researchers have explored the possibility of replacing some of the lithium with sodium. This substitution would result in reduced costs and a guaranteed supply, as sodium is cheaper and more readily available (being present in seawater as sodium chloride).

While some scientists have considered eliminating lithium altogether and utilizing sodium or other elements in high-quality batteries, sodium-based batteries have certain drawbacks. Lithium batteries remain superior in terms of delivering the concentrated charge required to power vehicles and portable devices. Taking a different approach, Ph.D. student Tullio Geraci and Professor Alexandra Navrotsky from Arizona State University have embarked on a promising journey by combining lithium and sodium within the same battery. This method holds the potential to alleviate supply concerns and pave the way for cheaper batteries and a more secure supply chain.

The research group is actively developing lithium-sodium materials and studying their structures, homogeneity, and thermodynamic properties. To measure the energetic stability of these materials, they employ a specialized technique known as High-temperature Oxide Melt Solution Calorimetry, which was developed and optimized in the Navrotsky laboratory. Additionally, heating experiments are conducted to determine any possible decomposition of the materials during use.

During their presentation at the Goldschmidt geochemistry conference, Tullio Geraci shared their progress, stating, “We have been gradually introducing sodium to lithium in small quantities, testing the stability and performance of the mixture. It’s a step-by-step process, and initially, the stability wasn’t promising. Our first priority was to ensure that the mixture retains its usability. However, as we increased the sodium content, the stability improved. Currently, we have achieved a 10% mixture that remains thermodynamically stable. We believe we can further increase this to approximately 20% before observing any significant difference in performance.”

Continuing the discussion, Geraci added, “Initially, we were uncertain about the feasibility of creating these dilutions of Li/Na. Surprisingly, we discovered that weak dilutions tend to deteriorate, losing their homogeneity and crystal structure, which are crucial for battery production. However, as we increase the sodium content, the material becomes more stable. Once we determine the optimal mixture, we will pass our findings to battery technologists to develop the first sodium-lithium batteries. These early steps mark the beginning of a new battery technology.”

Professor Nancy Ross from the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, commented, “The research conducted by Geraci and Navrotsky showcases the application of geochemistry in developing technologically significant materials. Their work opens up a promising path for exploring alternative, more affordable, and sustainable sources for lithium batteries, which are indispensable in our daily lives.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about battery technology revolution

What is the goal of combining lithium and sodium in batteries?

The goal of combining lithium and sodium in batteries is to cut costs, ensure a stable supply chain, and address the increasing scarcity of lithium. By mixing these elements, researchers aim to revolutionize battery technology and provide a more affordable and sustainable solution for powering various devices.

Why is lithium becoming scarce?

Lithium is becoming scarce due to its rising demand in lithium-ion batteries used in electric cars, computers, and portable devices. The high demand has driven up the price of lithium and affected its availability, making it crucial to explore alternative solutions to ensure a sustainable supply for battery production.

What advantages does sodium offer as a replacement for some lithium?

Sodium offers advantages as a replacement for some lithium due to its lower cost and greater availability. Sodium can be found in seawater as sodium chloride, making it a more accessible resource compared to lithium. By using sodium as a partial substitute for lithium, researchers can reduce costs and guarantee a more reliable supply chain for battery production.

How do researchers ensure the stability of the lithium-sodium mixture?

Researchers employ specialized techniques, such as High-temperature Oxide Melt Solution Calorimetry, to measure the energetic stability of the lithium-sodium materials. Additionally, they conduct heating experiments to determine any potential decomposition of the materials during use. By carefully studying the structures, homogeneity, and thermodynamic properties of the mixture, researchers ensure its stability and suitability for battery applications.

What are the potential benefits of sodium-lithium batteries?

Sodium-lithium batteries hold the potential for cost reduction, a more secure supply chain, and improved affordability of batteries. By combining lithium and sodium, these batteries can provide a viable alternative to traditional lithium-ion batteries. If successfully developed, sodium-lithium batteries could offer a more sustainable and accessible energy storage solution for powering vehicles, electronics, and other portable devices.

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battery_lover_92 July 14, 2023 - 6:59 am

omg mixing lithium and sodium in batteries? sooo cool! this could totally revolutionize battery tech and make it more affordable and stuff. lithium’s like super expensive these days cuz everyone wants it for their gadgets. so like using sodium to replace some of the lithium sounds like a genius idea. we need more research on this, can’t wait to see what happens next!!

EcoWarriorGirl July 14, 2023 - 10:52 am

Finally, some good news for sustainable batteries! Mixing lithium and sodium could be the answer to reducing costs and securing the supply chain. We really need alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, which are causing so much demand for lithium. Sodium is more available and cheaper, so it’s a win-win. Let’s hope this research takes off and brings us more affordable and eco-friendly battery options!

TechGeek123 July 14, 2023 - 4:24 pm

lithium scarcity is a big deal rn. prices are through the roof for lithium-ion batteries. but wait, researchers are onto something! they’re combing lithium and sodium to make batteries cheaper and make sure there’s enough supply. that’s some smart thinking! can’t wait to see these sodium-lithium batteries in action, man. gonna be a game changer for sure!


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