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Business News/ Industry / Energy/  Northvolt breaks through: No-critical mineral, sodium-ion based battery ready for market
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Northvolt breaks through: No-critical mineral, sodium-ion based battery ready for market

During the UN Climate Conference in Dubai, COP28, Northvolt CEO and Co-Founder Peter Carlsson shared his outlook on sodium-ion in a conversation with Anna Liberg, Global Head of Energy at Business Sweden.

Northvolt has developed sodium-ion technology, with its research partner Altris.Premium
Northvolt has developed sodium-ion technology, with its research partner Altris.

Northvolt, a Europe-based battery manufacturer, announced in November 2023 that it had developed a battery entirely without any critical minerals in it.

During the UN Climate Conference in Dubai, COP28, Northvolt CEO and Co-Founder Peter Carlsson shared his outlook on sodium-ion in a conversation with Anna Liberg, Global Head of Energy at Business Sweden.

Carlsson said, “The world has put high hopes on sodium-ion, and I’m very pleased to say that we’ve developed a technology that will enable its widespread deployment to accelerate the energy transition. It’s an important milestone for Northvolt’s market proposition, but battery technology like this is also crucial to reach global sustainability goals by making electrification more cost-efficient, sustainable and accessible worldwide."

Northvolt has developed sodium-ion technology, with its research partner Altris. It claims to provide the foundation for Northvolt's next-generation energy storage solutions. “The low cost and safety at high temperatures make the technology especially attractive for energy storage solutions in upcoming markets including India, the Middle East and Africa," the company's website mentioned.

Why do we need Sodium-ion batteries?

The Salar de Atacama in Chile, a lithium mining spot, has been depleted of its local water resources and disrupted sensitive ecosystems, according to an article by The New York Times.

Lithium’s limited availability and uneven distribution across the globe create supply chain vulnerabilities and drive up costs. In contrast, sodium, the workhorse of sodium-ion batteries, is abundantly found in seawater and common minerals, minimizing environmental pressures associated with extensive mining. As noted in the USGS report “The Criticality of Earth Elements in 2021," the dependence on scarce resources like lithium necessitates the exploration of alternatives like sodium-ion batteries.

Challenges and Opportunities 2023 report by World Bank Group highlights the water intensity of lithium extraction, particularly brine evaporation techniques, which can consume up to 500,000 gallons of water per ton of lithium produced.

It also emphasizes the potential environmental impacts of lithium extraction, including groundwater depletion, contamination, and the generation of toxic residues like brine sludge.

What are other companies working on lithium alternatives?

Faradion, HiNa Battery Technology and Natron Energy are among the other players that are working on abundant and environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries, reducing reliance on critical minerals and minimizing lithium’s environmental footprint.

Additionally in India, IIT Mumbai’s Center for Materials for Devices and Energy Storage (CMDES) is actively researching Sodium-ion and Magnesium-ion batteries as alternatives to lithium-ion batteries.

Around February, approximately 5.9 million tonnes of lithium resources were discovered in the Salal Haimana area of Reasi district in Jammu & Kashmir, as per the Geological Survey of India. Additionally, lithium resources were traced in Rajasthan’s Degana as well, according to various media reports.

As per a report by Earth.org, “It is important to note that fossil fuel mining, including lithium and cobalt mining, is estimated to be responsible for the emission of around 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) worldwide annually. About 45 per cent of it is from coal, 35 per cent from oil, and 20 per cent from gas." However, of this, the carbon emitted from lithium mining is significantly less than that from fossil fuels. The report adds that it is estimated to be around 1.3+ million tonnes of carbon annually, with every tonne of mined lithium equating to 15 tonnes of CO2 in the air.

Indicating the importance of finding lithium alternatives for a sustainable environment.

Livemint earlier reported, Scientists working under the ministry of science and technology have developed Na-ion-based batteries and supercapacitors using nano-materials which can be rapidly charged and integrated into e-cycles. The low-cost Na-ion-based technologies would be cheap and are expected to reduce the cost of the e-cycles significantly.

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Published: 18 Dec 2023, 10:52 AM IST
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