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Australia: Clean energy with a pinch of salt

SYDNEY: A sodium-ion battery being developed in Australia is set to increase solar energy use and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, according to researchers.

Although bulkier than commonly used lithium batteries, sodium-ion batteries will be cheaper, less toxic, and more environmentally friendly, said Manickam Minakshi, a chemistry and mineral scientist at Murdoch University, in Perth Australia.

“Our water-based sodium-ion battery has shown excellent potential for affordable, low-temperature storage,” he said.

Better batteries

Other batteries used for renewable energy storage – such as molten salt or molten sulphur – only work at high temperatures, making them expensive and impractical. Also, like lead-acid batteries, they are very corrosive and environmental pollutants, which aren’t problems with sodium-ion batteries, said Minakshi.

The Murdoch team is now moving towards large-scale commercialisation, and the future could see these batteries connected to solar panels in every home. “This is a very exciting time,” said Minakshi.

The new sodium-ion battery has particular potential when coupled with the green power of solar energy. Widespread use of power from solar panels is limited because there are periods known as ‘non-generation’ times, when power cannot be produced. These include, for example, overcast weather or night-times.
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