According to a study at the University of Houston, sodium-based battery technology might soon be available which could be a better alternative to lithium-based batteries.  

A homogeneous glassy electrolyte has been developed by Yan Yao, professor at the Electric & Computer Engineering department of Cullen College of Engineering and his colleagues at the University of Houston.  

The electrolyte makes it significantly more viable to produce sodium-ion based batteries commercially and on a larger scale. It enables reversible sodium plating and stripping at a greater current density.  

Lithium does have its advantages; however, prices are increasing and are at an all-time high. The rising costs are due to the pandemic causing supply-chain bottlenecks and also the Russia-Ukraine conflict causing increased demand for businesses. Mining lithium also has its environmental costs. 

Yao has commented saying: “The quest for new solid electrolytes for all-solid sodium batteries must concurrently be low cost, easily fabricated, and have incredible mechanical and chemical stability.” 

“To date, no single sodium solid electrolyte has been able to achieve all four of these requirements at the same time.”  

The study suggested that ambient temperature solid-state sodium-sulfur battery technology can be used for grid-level energy storage systems with the help of the new electrolyte.  

The positively charged metallic ion in sodium or lithium takes the charge from the anode to the cathode of a battery when the circuit is completed. This process is called stripping of the anode.  

When a battery is charged, the formation of sodium/lithium occurs around the anode of the battery in its metallic form. This is called plating or deposition. The positive ions must be free to move about because this movement is what produces electric energy. 

Sodium batteries earlier required three times the volume of lithium needed to produce the same amount of energy. This disadvantage discouraged scientists from working towards making sodium-based batteries. 

Sodium ion batteries will be a lot cheaper to produce than lithium batteries and this is due to the abundance of the raw materials to make them. The groups that are working on these batteries will hopefully be able to steer the market and the planet into a more sustainable direction.