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Scientists have found a wild new way to make batteries last longer: '[This] would make us less dependent on lithium'

Dutch professor Marnix Wagemaker may have the recipe for a better battery.

Marnix Wagemaker, Batteries out of salt

Photo Credit: iStock

Dutch professor Marnix Wagemaker may have the recipe for a better battery — and it includes five kinds of salt. 

If the research goes according to plan, motorists might soon be driving around in electric vehicles powered, in part, by salt and the sun. 

The sodium cocktail solution inside his prototype has, in limited testing, doubled the lifespan of certain lithium-ion batteries, according to Innovation Origins (IO). It's a breakthrough that could power EVs and other technology for much longer while using fewer resources. 

That's important news, as rising EV sales are putting a strain on lithium mines, NPR reports. Since sodium is readily available in seawater, it's a sustainable way to alleviate the heavily-used metal reserves. 

"Let's say our solution does its job just as well … then this might help the introduction of this type of battery, which would make us less dependent on lithium," Wagemaker, who works at Delft lab in the Netherlands, told IO.

It's part of research from a growing number of companies that are making battery discoveries, some even using sand, in an effort to create more power using fewer mines and metals.

Wagemaker's team is going heavy on the salt. 

Common lithium-ion batteries already use sodium in a substance the experts call electrolyte. In that process, positive ions travel between the positive and negative ends of the battery. They slowly break down as they power up and discharge, Wagemaker said, eventually resulting in a dead battery. 

Adding a diverse group of salts to an already hectic environment of ions and charges results in more chaos  — and, ironically — a more stable surface in the battery. The end result is longer battery life. 

"[W]e want to explore the application of this electrolyte concept also in next-generation sodium-ion batteries," Wagemaker told IO. 

Wagemaker and the Delft team are going to continue trying to perfect the salt mix in their search for better battery life. They are also working with other innovators to see how their solution performs in various kinds of batteries, from powering EVs to storing wind and solar power. 

"We need to find out what the optimal combination is for each type of battery technology," Wagemaker said

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