Sodium is a common ingredient that is usually extracted from soda ash, but it can be found in seawater and anywhere from bugs to peat. It is also suitable for the type of application that Meng is describing. The ions are a little heavier and larger than lithium, which means you can’t pack so much energy in a small space like the belly of a car. “Where sodium batteries can have a big impact on the grid,” explains Nuria Tapia-Ruiz, a professor at Lancaster University and director of the Faraday Institution’s Sodium Battery Initiative. These batteries can be a little big, a little heavy, but it doesn’t matter because they just have to sit tight.
Historically, Tapia-Ruiz says, sodium batteries have been partially retained because of their chemical stability. Although sodium and lithium are periodic neighbors, they exist in parallel universes of chemistry, reacting differently with different elements and compounds. This means that in order to switch to sodium, fancy materials have to be made for the cathode and anode of the battery, the positive and negative electrodes that capture and release the ions as soon as the battery is charged and then spent. One particular problem is that chemical reactions inside the battery can eat away the electrolytes in the electrodes, shorten the life of the battery, or create the risk of forming sodium metal, which can be explosive. Another challenge is that energy-dense sodium batteries usually contain nickel, just like many lithium batteries. Eliminating that metal is a major concern for researchers, albeit difficult. “But it’s the right thing to do because you want to create a technology that’s sustainable and very green,” said Tapia-Ruiz.
But a handful of labs and startups still working on sodium have made quiet progress in recent decades. California-based startup Natron primarily builds sodium batteries to get backups to industrial facilities and data centers. The company uses a material called Prussian Blue as the base of its electrodes, along with a variety of primary synthetic pigments used in iconic paintings. Kanagawa closed under the Great Wave. Inside a battery, the design is not particularly energy-dense, even by sodium value. One advantage, however, is that our supply chain could be local, according to Jack Pouchet, the company’s vice president of sales. It contains common ingredients such as sodium, manganese and iron, and the factory is located in Santa Clara, California. Due to the lack of energy storage, the battery can quickly charge and distribute that energy. Oomph over range. The company hopes that once the power grid becomes thinner, its batteries can be used to quickly charge electric cars. Natron is moving ahead with plans to install such a device in San Diego, Pouchett said.
The company’s other pitch security. Pouchet grids point to the occurrence of battery storage operations, including a large fire at a battery facility Australia And overheating in other installations California, Raises concerns about the advice to keep batteries in everyone’s home, although those fires can be rare. “I don’t want to keep it in my garage,” he says. The company’s website has demonstration videos of battery packs being crushed and heated and shot with a gun, all without apparent problems.
But, in general, the safety of sodium batteries is “not perfect,” Meng says, and it depends on the specific battery design. It all comes down to connecting the right cathode and electrolyte, and fire risk elimination is more difficult for more power-intensive batteries, such as those found in cars, or designed to provide long-term power, such as grid storage batteries.