Liquid battery could charge green energy

Mar 02, 2012
The sun is reflected in a solar panel. Engineering professor Donald Sadoway on Thursday used an old-school chalk board at the prestigious TED gathering to write the formula for a liquid battery that could one day cut the need for new power plants. Inexpensive batteries made from liquid metal could store electricity from solar panels, wind farms, or existing generation facilities.

Engineering professor Donald Sadoway on Thursday used an old-school chalk board at the prestigious TED gathering to write the formula for a liquid battery that could one day cut the need for new power plants.

"The way things stand, must be in constant balance with supply," Sadoway told the tech-savvy audience in southern California.

Inexpensive batteries made from liquid metal could store electricity from solar panels, , or existing generation facilities and save it for when it is most needed.

That would be a major change from today's consume-it-now-or-lose-it systems.

"The battery is the enabling device here," he said. "With it we could draw electricity from the sun even when the sun doesn't shine."

Sadoway and his team of students at Massachusetts Institute of Technology were so confident in their creation that they started Battery Corporation and plan to have bistro-table size models out in two years.

Microsoft co-founder is among the company's backers.

The company plans to eventually bring to market a liquid battery the size of a 40-foot shipping container and capable of holding enough electricity to serve the daily needs of 200 typical US households.

"You could have these batteries in the basements of buildings drinking up power in the wee hours," Sadoway said.

"It means we don't have to build more plants, power lines just for peak use," he continued. "The limits are way out there, not only in terms of what it can do for renewables."

The key metals in the battery are common and magnesium, the professor explained as he chalked a basic chemical equation on the board.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a series of conferences designed to present cutting-edge ideas. Speakers are given only 18 minutes to give deliver their pitch.

Explore further: Building a better battery

More information: blog.ted.com/2012/02/29/reinve… -sadoway-at-ted2012/

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kaasinees
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 02, 2012
What are the effiency rates compared to a molten salt battery? Liquid metal sounds pretty expensive to.
Kinedryl
1.3 / 5 (12) Mar 02, 2012
It depends on the size of battery and heat transfer coefficient. At the case of industrial scale batteries the heat loss may not be so crucial for overall effectiveness. The deeper problem is, every research of alternative ways of energy production, transport, conversion and storage actually delays the research and implementation of REALLY environmentally friendly and economic solutions, like the cold fusion. In general, the so-called green energy solutions are actually material and man labour hungry, because they're unreliable and their production must be balanced with expensive batteries. But the lobby of researchers involved in alternative energy research (including so-called green energy) will not allow the research of cold fusion, until it depletes all opportunities to prohibit it.
Wolf358
4 / 5 (4) Mar 02, 2012
I don't think anyone is prohibiting cold fusion research. If anyone could demonstrate even a glow-worm's worth of useable energy coming out of something that could be labeled "cold fusion", they'd be overwhelmed with funding. Until that happens, folk are going to put their _limited_ research
money on horses with a chance of winning the race.
I'm sorry; the most promising CF demonstration I've seen turned out to be drawing it's "excess energy" from a potential created by the rooms air conditioning system.
Kinedryl
1.8 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
I don't think anyone is prohibiting cold fusion research
We have such a demonstrations and we still have no response. We have whole institutions for search for gravitational waves, albeit these waves never demonstrated a "glow-worm's" worth of usable energy. The nuclear fighting with Iraq for the rest of oil is apparently more popular between people - so they will get it.
hikenboot
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2012
I keep telling people this. The number may not be exact, but if we took 50 miles x 50 miles of New Mexico desert and filled it with a solar reflector array of arrays we would be able to produce the majority of the day time electric needs of the USA. We could use the existing fuel fired plants to take care of peak usage and also take care of night time and the few percent of the time when the sun is blocked by clouds in the desert. It would be a great boon to the economy for the creation of the solar panels, towers, mining of materials, concrete production, and beefing up electrical infrastructure (using the new method of using refuse from metal making plants so that it absorbs more carbon than it produces). We would reduce fossil fuels by a great percentage by doing that. This is not SCI-FI science. It has been tested on small scale and works!
jalmy
3 / 5 (8) Mar 02, 2012
The deeper problem is, every research of alternative ways of energy production, transport, conversion and storage actually delays the research and implementation of REALLY environmentally friendly and economic solutions, like the cold fusion.


I don't know if this guy is just trolling or really believes this but, being able to store energy generated during off peek hours locally, and use it during peek demand is F-ing huge. The power grid is often over taxed during these hours, thats why you have blackouts and huge peek demand rate increases. Also being able to store electricity locally and using some capacitors you can help maintain your power factor making the whole grid more efficient. This technology could be a major game changer and very important for the present and future power grid. Don't discount important science because it isn't "cold fusion".
CapitalismPrevails
1.4 / 5 (9) Mar 02, 2012
hikenboot, it won't stimulate the economy because first you need the investment capital for a grandiose project like that and you need to overhaul, to say the least, the grid. Where's the money going to come from for that? Use existing coal technology. Get rid of the EPA so coal companies can actually start building their own coal gasification plants.
dschlink
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
How does this compare (cost, efficiency, maintainability) to the sodium-sulfur batteries that are already deployed in multiple megawatt-hour configurations?

HB having a single power source presents enormous problems in distribution and reliability. Plus, storing 5,000 billion watt-hrs of power for nighttime use might be a bit of a challenge.
Horus
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
FYI: Apple holds an exclusive contract for several years of research with Liquid Metal.
hyongx
5 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
"The key metals in the battery are common vanadium and magnesium,"

Magnesium is highly flammible in its molten form, and all vanadium compounds should be considered toxic. Imagine a shipping container filled with liquid explosive and toxic metals. mmmmmmmm...
MCPtz
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
The battery wouldn't be shipped at 700 C, thus Mg wouldn't be in molten form. Also, the paper doesn't mention Vanadium. It mentions, Mg, Sb, Cl, K, and Na.

I read the paper on his MIT webpage, they are still having long term stability problems due to:
"Stationary storage applications require devices to operate
reliably for many years. In the present study, corrosion was not
an issue. However, after several weeks of cycling, the cells
ceased to operate. The observed cause of failure was
evaporation of the molten salt electrolyte into the surrounding
containment vessel, a mechanism that could be mitigated by
alternative cell designs with reduced head space."

Furthermore, something nice:
"At some larger scale, the action of
electric current flowing through the electrolyte could generate
enough Joule heat to keep the components molten, thereby
obviating the need for external heaters, as is the case with
electrolytic cells producing aluminum on a commercial scale."
MR166
1.8 / 5 (5) Mar 02, 2012
There is no doubt that distributed power storage is a huge plus. Perhaps they can be located at substations and be controlled by the company supplying the power. This would go a long way towards making solar and wind power more valuable and help to make the grid more robust.
GSwift7
1 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
To those above suggesting alternative power generation methods, that is an entirely different topic.

No matter what type of power generation you use, there will still be a need to store power near the point of use during off-peak hours. Even if you have some imaginary "ultimate free source of unlimited power" you still have to transport that power to its point of use on the electric grid. That grid is built from wires and transformers and such, which are expensive parts that have limits of operating capacity. If you can store power near the point of use during off peak hours, then you can minimize the load on the grid during peak hours by drawing off of the batteries. This would help control the cost of building and maintaning the grid, no matter what your source of power is. The only exception to this would be if everyone could buy a "Mr Fusion" machine and generate their own power at the point of use, and completely eliminate the grid.
GSwift7
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 02, 2012
There is no doubt that distributed power storage is a huge plus. Perhaps they can be located at substations and be controlled by the company supplying the power.


They actually already do this. They use units packaged in shipping containers, composed of standard chemical batteries. These units are currently too expensive to handle base load demands, since they only function for a limited number of charge/discharge cycles before they need to be replaced, and they have limited energy density as well. They are only used for power conditioning and load leveling at transformer stations and near heavy points of use right now. Without them you would constantly see your lights going bright and dim and you would have a lot of trouble keeping your computer running without a UPS system. One place I lived in Kansas had trouble with line frequency. I blew a CRT computer monitor about every 6-12 months there. They had unbelievable swings in Hrtz there according to my scope.
BRKrishnan
not rated yet Mar 02, 2012
Such technology if found to be economically viable, could benefit the world in many ways and at the same time reduce the impact of power generation on the environment. If international cooperation can be stretched to enable large scale use of such facilities in places where producing power by conventional means is hard or unsafe, the benefits would indeed be great!
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (1) Mar 02, 2012
Wrong liquid metal company Horus. This company is Liquid Metal Battery Corporation. Apple has partnered with Liquid Metal Technologies. One makes molten batteries, the other makes phone casing components.

Stick a Bloom Box or some other SOFC next to it and use the waste heat from the fuel cell to keep the battery at operating temps. There are a ton of good ways to keep these things warm enough without having to waste any energy to do it.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Mar 05, 2012
There are a ton of good ways to keep these things warm enough without having to waste any energy to do it.

We could use chickens.

There was a plan to hide nuclear mines in germany in the event of a russian attack. In order to keep the electronics from freezing a live chicken was to be encased in the apparatus.

Sounds crazy? Operation "Blue Peacock", 'hatched' by the UK in the 1950's
Howhot
not rated yet Mar 05, 2012
You know Antialias, this is going to sound funny, but it's true. I read a paper about a month ago from the 1970's when President Carter was in the middle doing battle with the oil embargo that talked about this very thing. Using utility scale liquid batteries to allow solar to be a base level source of electricity.

It was used in conjunction with photovoltaic solar farms. If I recall it was a huge Iron-magnesium liquid metal battery farm. Not bad for the 70's.
hikenboot
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
CapitalismPrevails you wrote

"hikenboot, it won't stimulate the economy because first you need the investment capital for a grandiose project like that and you need to overhaul, to say the least, the grid. Where's the money going to come from for that? Use existing coal technology. Get rid of the EPA so coal companies can actually start building their own coal gasification plants."

The object of getting rid of coal is to prevent the oncoming disaster that will take place over the next 50 years as the sun comes out of its minimal output and earth builds up carbon dioxide and even worse methane gas from the soon to be unfrozen dead plant life under the polar ice (which is now beginning to bubble to the surface and is roughly 700 times worse a green house gas) We caused this and have reached a tipping point. We must develop bacteria that consume the amassed Carbon Dioxide and methan gas from the atmosphere ---safely so as not to cause a runaway reaction that we cant stop.
hikenboot
5 / 5 (1) Mar 06, 2012
CapitalismPrevails, we have to reduce our production of green house gasses at the same time. We also have to print another trillion dollars and invest it in the building of the solar arrays. One more trillion to our massive debt isn't going to make us default, while the payback is enormous. In fact I would go as far as to say our original plan of printing money to get us out of the republican mess that we were in should have been spent on this desert project. People have to start thinking about the distant future, of our children and grand children. Without this expenditure their lives will be destroyed and they may very well be the last generations. Other things we must worry about is the super volcanoes which are going to errupt in the next 1000-30,000 years & astroids that will destroy the planet. The only hope we have is that moores law will hold for another 100 years and that we will approach a tech singularity in the next 20 years that will enable us to get out of this mess.
XQZME
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
HIKENBOOT:
I just adore these arithmetic and research deficient comments.
U.S. Power capacity in 2010 was 1,040 gigawatts. Solar requires about 31.25 square miles per gigawatt. It would take 32,500 square miles for 1,040 gigawatts. This is a square area 180 miles on a side. But it would be running at peak efficiency only 25% of the time.
At the current subsidy rate of $775,065 per gigawatt, the total subsidy would be $806,676,000,000

Almost all of this would go to China. Electricity cost would chase millions of jobs out of the country as it has in all other countries with high alternate fuel.
http://answers.ya...6AAM0ZEM
http://www.eia.go...e1_1.xls
http://www.eia.go...apacity/
XQZME
1 / 5 (1) Mar 12, 2012
HIKENBOOT:
Please research your hypotheses before posting them. You are just embarrassing yourself.
9,100 of the last 10,500 years were warmer than now. Global temperature has been declining since 1998; sea level, since 2007. In November the IPCC said that new experiments show that all IPCC models are invalid and that mans impact is so insignificant compared to natural processes and because it is not now known whether it is positive or negative, it is not possible to project whether global climate will be warmer or cooler in 2 or 3 decades.
In the last 600 million the only time CO2 was this little was 300 million years ago. In that period global temperature rises always preceded and never followed CO2 increases.
You even put the blame on the wrong party for the mess we got in but this is the wrong forum to discuss your other failures.
guesta0
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
I am a total newbie here.

What's the difference between this solution and what is existent right now on the market ?

Why not plugging a Li-ion battery to store what my solar panels are producing, then to release it later ?
Kinedryl
not rated yet Mar 19, 2012
Why not plugging a Li-ion battery to store what my solar panels are producing, then to release it later ?
Because lithium batteries are expensive and you'll lose 40% of energy with this storage just from the very beginning. After one year the capacity of battery would be 70% only and you'll lose 60% during the storage and recuperation. The main reason for it is the degradation of electrodes and gradual increasing of their resistance. Molten electrodes cannot degrade: they're regenerated again and again.
hikenboot
not rated yet Mar 24, 2012
XQZME:
Note: the specifics of this argument by me have been moved here.

http://www.physor...ght.html The solar power station listed here goes into a numeric argument with more specifics and an existing case example where economies of scale apply.
Howhot
not rated yet Mar 24, 2012
XQZME
...all IPCC models are invalid and that mans impact is so insignificant compared to natural processes...


That is just PURE BS. The IPCC models are 180 degrees opposite of what you claim. Your a lier and an apparent manipulator trying to spin environmental issues. XQZME is a brainless blossom head. And we know which end the blossom is on.
hikenboot
not rated yet Mar 25, 2012
XQZME: it may be the case that mans impact is miniscule, the problem is that mans impact is enough to tip the scale. In other words man adds CO2 to the atmosphere giving enough heat trapping to the system that methane is released from under the areas that are supposed to be frozen. Methane is 700 times a better green house gas than CO2 and its being released in massive amounts as we speak!

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