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February 1, 2022

Sodium: A Bolt of Genius!

What do you do when a major winter storm or a bolt of lightning has left you without power and the temperature in your home begins to plummet? Even if your back-up generator kicks in, you worry about the potential for fire and toxic fumes. Researchers are developing a sodium-based battery as an alternative power source to lithium-ion batteries that, when produced on a large scale, might one day make generators obsolete. Learn more at NSF's "The Discovery Files."

Credit: National Science Foundation

Sodium: A Bolt of Genius!

Hi! I'm Mo Barrow with The Discovery Files, from NSF -- the U.S. National Science Foundation.

A major winter storm has left electric utility lines covered in thick ice. Then, they come crashing to the ground.

Instantly, your power goes out. Next, the temperature in your home falls. No heat!

Your back-up generator does kick in, but you worry about safety: fire, toxic fumes.

No worries! With support in part from NSF, researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are developing an alternative power source, an inexpensive battery that, when produced on a large scale, can be wired as a single unit, which might one day make fire hazardous generators obsolete.

But don't think lithium-ion batteries. The research team is replacing the lithium and cobalt used in such batteries with a sodium-based material.

It is highly stable, recharges quickly, could yield a higher energy output, is environmentally safe, and proves a great energy storage resource.

A bolt of lightning can also take out your power! So, the next time you find yourself in the dark with temperatures plummeting, know that sodium could one day bring the heat and the light. Sodium: A Bolt of Genius!

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