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  • Context (LM): The idea of making sodium-ion ( Na-ion) batteries at scale is gaining traction.
  • CATL, a Chinese battery manufacturer, the world’s largest maker of Li-ion vehicle batteries, 2021 announced the world’s first sodium battery for electric vehicles.

Drawbacks of Lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries

  • Lithium is scarce.
  • The best Li-ion batteries need cobalt and nickel, which are also scarce.
  • Cobalt is problematic as much of it comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo with poor working conditions.
  • Another type of Li-ion battery called polyanionic design uses lithium iron phosphate (LFP). LFP batteries don’t need nickel or cobalt. However, they can’t store as much energy per kilogram as batteries with layered-oxide cathodes.

Why Sodium-ion (Na-ion) batteries?

  • Sodium is abundant, mainly found in ocean salt.
  • Layered-oxide cathodes using sodium instead of lithium can function without cobalt or nickel.
  • This discovery by chemists offers a potential alternative for battery manufacturing.
  • It eliminates the need for scarce and sometimes problematic metals like cobalt and nickel.

Why Sodium was not preferred to lithium?

  • A sodium battery will be bigger and heavier than a lithium one of the same capacity.
  • Small size and low weight are crucial for phones and are desirable in cars.
  • However, sodium batteries can be used for grid-scale storage, home storage, and heavy transport, such as lorries and ships.

Transition Metals

  • Cobalt and nickel are so-called transition metals.
  • Transition metals are superior conductors of heat as well as electricity. They don’t react quickly with water or oxygen, which explains why they resist corrosion.

Alkali Metals

  • Lithium, Sodium, Potassium, Rubidium, and Caesium are alkali metals.
  • They have a strong tendency to donate their valence electron in the last shell to form strong ionic bonds. Hence, they are highly reactive to water and oxygen.
  • Since alkali metals react readily, they are usually found in conjunction with other metals in nature. For example, sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium carbonate (soda ash)
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