Renewable energy makes up an increasing percentage of U.S. energy production, doubling from 10% of U.S. energy in 2010 to 20% in 2020. However, solar and wind power plants generate energy intermittently, at times producing energy that’s not consumed. To make the most of renewable energy, power grids will have to expand battery storage to capture surplus energy for later use.
Lithium-ion batteries are widely used in devices ranging from cell phones to electric vehicles, but the global supply of lithium is limited, complicating efforts to scale up lithium-ion batteries for grid storage. Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) are exploring ways to make sodium-based batteries that serve some of the same functions as lithium-ion batteries with more abundant materials.
“Lithium is really popular, but there’s only so much lithium to go around, whereas sodium is very cheap, and it’s everywhere — the ocean has quite a bit of sodium in it,” says Leo Small, a researcher at SNL...
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