Lithium ion batteries can be recharged hundreds of times and work well, but lithium is expensive. Researchers at Michigan Technological University have found an effective and virtually inexhaustible substitute for lithium. They believe sodium could be the alternative everyone is looking for; it’s cheap and abundantly available in seawater.
But sodium has a big drawback which is the main reason why it hasn’t been used yet. Sodium atoms are around 70% larger than lithium atoms. This makes the battery’s electrodes wear off much faster.
The National Science Foundation has granted funding to the Michigan Tech team for further research to find out what materials and electrodes are best suited to handle sodium. The team will be using a unique transmission electron microscope to study how atoms behave during charging and discharging the battery.
Scientists need to tackle the issues relating to charging and discharging of batteries before a long lasting rechargeable sodium battery can be developed. They hope this technology can become a significant source of renewable energy in the future, which is vital considering the EPA estimates more than 350 million rechargeable batteries are sold in the U.S. each year.