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Researchers seem to stumble across an electrolyte for a sodium battery

Image of a chunk of metal surrounded by a whitish crust.

Enlarge / Sodium metal will react with something in just about any environment it encounters on Earth. Here, a fresh cut shows how extensive its reactions with air are. (credit: Getty Images)

Lithium-based batteries are great, with different electrode chemistries allowing them to be slotted into a variety of uses. The problem with them has nothing to do with their performance. The challenge we face is that we want to make a lot of batteries; if all of them use lithium, we’re undoubtedly going to face supply crunches.

One potential solution to that is to simply replace lithium with a different ion. Alternative batteries may not be as good as lithium variants in all the different places we currently use them. They just have to be good enough at one task to take away some of the need to stick lithium everywhere.

That’s the reasoning behind some interest in sodium-based batteries. Sodium is very plentiful and correspondingly cheap and can be made to behave a bit like lithium when used in a battery. But sodium batteries always carry risks associated with sodium’s tendency to react explosively. But a recently developed solid electrolyte suggests that at least some of the challenges associated with sodium could be overcome.

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