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ANSTO researches sodium as lithium battery alternative


Researchers at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) are currently reviewing alternative elements for battery technology, with an increasing focus on sodium. 

The importance of battery research cannot be underestimated when examining its impact on daily life, according to ANSTO’s Australian Synchrotron leader of the Powder Diffraction team Dr Qinfen Gu. 

“The way we harness power is changing. As we move to electric vehicles and solar power in our homes, reliable batteries are an essential part of that transformation,” Gu said. 

“Right now, the world largely relies on lithium. However, this is a finite resource and there is a movement towards establishing greener, more sustainable and cheaper alternatives.” 

ANSTO’s investigation centres on how sodium can potentially replace lithium as a key battery component for stationary energy storage. 

“Lithium remains the most efficient and powerful known element for power storage, however as more of our lives – from smartphones to street signs – require battery power there will one day come a time when lithium it is no longer an economically viable option,” Gu said. 

“On the other hand, sodium can be harvested easily from sea water, which is why we are examining sodium batteries on a sub-atomic level to work out if there is any way to make them a potential alternative that can work as well as, if not better than lithium.” 

Other potential elemental options include potassium and zinc. 

“The world needs to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to batteries – we can’t just run out and then ask, What’s next?’ That is why we are searching for cheaper, more sustainable solutions to power the future,” Gu said. 

The ANSTO Australian Synchrotron is the largest in the southern hemisphere. It is an essential tool scientists use to study the molecular structural reactions taking place, to develop a more efficient power source. 

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