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Why Lithium, Potassium and Sodium Come Up as Battery Tech?

Updated: Aug 19

Follow me on Twitter @RobMcCammon1

One word 'Chemistry'.

Hey, I'm not that guy. I will explain what makes these so much of 'repeat offenders' in battery conversations. It's about the outer shell of the atoms. That shell is called the valence shell and boy does it matter.

You see, every atom wants to be like the 'noble' elements, Helium, Neon, Argon and so on. They are very stable. I mean nothing south of the power of the sun can change those guys. They don't combine with anything. Their valence shell has no empty spots, nor do they want to give any electrons away. Most are non flammable, again because they don't combine with Oxygen.

Meanwhile, there's those other elements on the other side of the periodic table. Starting with Hydrogen, who is found happy with itself as H2, below that is Lithium. We are putting that in everything we own. Then below that is Na. Sodium. One below that is Potassium. Every atom in that first row only has one electron in it's valence shell. These are collectively known as 'electron donors'. They want rid of that extra electron to make themselves stable like Helium. To do that, they combine easy with anything with an electron spot available.

All of these elements have this capability, along with Rubidium, Francium and Cesium, but they are rarer so we don't speak much about them. (Cesium is a favorite in crystal form to make atomic clocks. When you squeeze certain materials they emit an electric charge at a predicted rate. Piezo effect 'BOOM' laying some knowledge on you)

See the left column? They are very stable. The column on the right? Unstable, looking for love, everywhere. The behavior of these atoms and other columns began to show early chemists the make up of the table.

There's a great book. 'The Disappearing Spoon'. I love that book. Get the audio book, he tells the stories (a lot of them are very dark) of how we discovered the elements. Am I plugging his book? YES. I AM PLUGGING THIS BOOK. I hated chemistry.

That's the simple part.

Each one of these has some good and bad. Since their atomic weights go up, their energy density goes down. Simply the atoms are bigger so you can't cram is much into the spot. This is very simplified, and I promised the Lord in Heaven that I would not write a chemical equation again so many years ago if he just got me through chemistry.

So. That is why you hear these elements over and over for batteries. CATL's recent announcement of a salt battery still can probably make dendrites. That process happens after the reassembly of the cathode and anodes. The atoms begin to stack and form a chain through the separator and the electrolyte shorting the battery.

In third grade or so you probably did an experiment in class that allowed you to watch a salt crystal grow in water. When you think about that, your battery assembles and disassembles, so it too will stack as the greater amount of atoms follow a given path through the separator.

The TLDR? All these are in the same column so they all act very similar. Look at the periodic table to see the elements this applies too.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope this helps. Our goal at Charge Talk is to build understanding so you can understand what you are investing in. Any comments? Hit us up.

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This is not financial advice.