Reinventing the Battery
Today, most of the world's batteries make use of the element lithium. However, the comparative rarity of this metal, combined with the public's insatiable demand for energy, has resulted in a rapidly-dwindling lithium supply. In fact, some analysts have predicted that in a few decades, the world's supply of lithium will not be enough to meet the energy needs of the global population. Faced with this prospect, researchers have begun experimenting on alternatives to the lithium-ion solution, and this is where the sodium-ion battery comes in.
Because sodium is cheaper and more abundant than lithium, sodium-ion batteries possess the potential to change the paradigm of battery production. Although sodium is physically heavier, the economic and mass production benefits brought by the use of a sodium-ion solution would be well worth the trade-off. However, there are still two major hurdles that sodium-ion batteries must overcome before they can be released to the public: sodium's inherent combustibility, and having the sodium-ion solution hold electric charges properly.
While the tendency of sodium-ion batteries to spontaneously ignite has long been solved by researchers, it was only recently that a solution to the charge problem has been found. Based on a study conducted by researchers at Purdue University, it was found that using sodium powder mixed in a hexane solution resulted in a sodium-ion battery that was not only stable, but also had high capacity. Furthermore, the use of this powder prevented the buildup of sodium ions in the battery anode, which caused the charging problems of the sodium-ion battery prototypes.
Despite the success of this prototype, more work needs to be done before a fully-functioning sodium-ion battery can be mass-produced and sold to the public. However, the fact that the sodium powder solution managed to achieve the minimum requirements of a functional battery proves the value of such an endeavor to the battery production industry. As such, it won't be a surprise if in the future, lithium-ion batteries are slowly replaced by this cheaper and more eco-friendly alternative.
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