Lithium-free sodium batteries are now being produced in the U.S. The environment will benefit.

Lithium-free sodium batteries are now being produced in the U.S. The environment will benefit.
lithium mine; lithium is used for electric car batteries

Good news for the environment: Sodium batteries are now being produced, which will result in less reliance on China for lithium-ion batteries. New Atlas reports:

Two years ago, sodium-ion battery pioneer Natron Energy was busy preparing its specially formulated sodium batteries for mass production. The company slipped a little past its 2023 kickoff plans, but it didn’t fall too far behind as far as mass battery production goes. It officially commenced production of its rapid-charging, long-life lithium-free sodium batteries this week, bringing to market an intriguing new alternative in the energy storage game.

Not only is sodium somewhere between 500 to 1,000 times more abundant than lithium on the planet we call Earth, sourcing it doesn’t necessitate the same type of earth-scarring extraction. Even moving beyond the sodium vs lithium surname comparison, Natron says its sodium-ion batteries are made entirely from abundantly available commodity materials that also include aluminum, iron and manganese.

Furthermore, the materials for Natron’s sodium-ion chemistry can be procured through a reliable US-based domestic supply chain free from geopolitical disruption. The same cannot be said for common lithium-ion materials like cobalt and nickel.

Sodium-ion tech has received heightened interest in recent years as a more reliable, potentially cheaper energy storage medium. While its energy density lags behind lithium-ion, advantages such as faster cycling, longer lifespan and safer, non-flammable end use have made sodium-ion an attractive alternative, especially for stationary uses like data center and EV charger backup storage…Natron says its batteries charge and discharge at rates 10 times faster than lithium-ion, a level of immediate charge/discharge capability that makes the batteries a prime contender for the ups and downs of backup power storage.

This could help reduce America’s dependence on China. China produces 75% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries, and processes 60% of the world’s lithium.

A new substance discovered by artificial intelligence could reduce lithium use in batteries. Microsoft, which is collaborating with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), said that the new “material, unknown to us and not present in nature” could potentially reduce lithium use in batteries by up to 70% and “have tremendous environmental, safety, and economic benefits.”

Right now, most lithium is processed in China. The U.S. accounts for just one percent of global lithium production. Lithium mining has a significant environmental impact.

In early January, artificial intelligence discovered a new material that could potentially replace lithium in many batteries: “Microsoft’s researchers used AI and supercomputers to narrow down 32 million potential materials to 18 promising candidates in just 80 hours. A spokesperson for the company said this significantly shortened a process that would have traditionally taken decades.”

A volcano in the U.S. may contain a huge amount of lithium, but the U.S. processes only 2% of the world’s lithium, and currently has little capacity to process lithium. Some major lithium producers like Australia send most of their lithium to China to be processed

LU Staff

LU Staff

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