Sodium batteries are the solution for the future

The transition to a fossil fuel-free society increases demand for batteries, which in turn may lead to shortages of critical metals such as lithium and cobalt, the key components of the most common battery types. With this in mind, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden has investigated the feasibility of sodium ion batteries, using table salt and forestry biomass as the main raw materials. These sodium batteries have the same climate impact as their lithium counterparts, but without the risk of raw material shortages.

The European Union, in its Critical Raw Materials Act, anticipates an exponential increase in demand for these important battery materials as countries transition to renewable energy systems and electric vehicles. The green transition will require greater local production of batteries and other fossil fuel-free technologies, which in turn poses a high risk of supply disruptions due to the limited availability of raw material sources.

In a new study, Chalmers researchers conducted a life cycle assessment of sodium-ion batteries, examining their environmental and resource impacts during raw material extraction and manufacturing. They found that these batteries are much better than lithium-ion batteries in terms of impacts on mineral scarcity and equivalents in terms of impacts on climate.

In the future, sodium batteries will be used for stationary energy storage in the power grid and possibly also in electric vehicles. Energy storage capacities are essential for the expansion of wind and solar energy.

The main advantage of these batteries is that their materials are abundant and found all over the world. One of the electrodes uses sodium ions as a charge carrier, the other consists of hard carbon that can be produced from biomass from forestry. Furthermore, in terms of production processes and geopolitics, sodium batteries could accelerate the transition to a fossil fuel-free society.

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The study is a prospective life cycle assessment of two different types of sodium ion battery cells, in which the environmental and resource impacts from raw material extraction to the production of a battery cell were calculated. The study was published in the “Journal of Industrial Ecology”.

REFERENCES

Prospective life cycle assessment of sodium-ion batteries manufactured from abundant elements

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