A recently introduced liquid-metal battery promises to store large amounts of excess power and quickly release it when needed, and at relatively low cost. The emissions-free liquid metal battery operates silently without moving parts. These characteristics allow placing it in the middle of a city or a desert without special regulatory or permitting requirements. The battery will use existing power electronics and follow interconnection standards.
The developer, appropriately call Liquid Metal Battery Corp., (lmbcorporation.com) says the low cost comes through use of inexpensive, easy to procure, earth-abundant materials. “Our products also take advantage of the economies of scale inherent to electro-metallurgy and conventional manufacturing,” says LMBC President Philip Giudice.
“The liquid electrodes avoid cycle-to-cycle capacity fade because they reconstitute with each charge,” he says. Prototypes have operated in a lab environment for more than 17 months with daily cycling and no reduction in performance. A molten-salt electrolyte separates the electrodes and combines high conductivity with a tolerance for abuse.
The liquid components segregate themselves due to three immiscible liquid phases of different densities (like oil and water) allowing for reliable operation and manufacturing ease. These attributes let the liquid metal battery exceed 70% round-trip ac efficiency for over a decade and without degradation. Management and control electronics are configured to allow remote operation and monitoring of the battery without on-site personnel.
Giudice says the battery responds with its entire nameplate capacity in milliseconds and can store up to 12 hours of energy and discharge it slowly over time. “The technology has been under development for more than six years,” he says. Recent accomplishments have resulted in a significant increase in size and total capacity of batteries tested. He says ARPA-e sponsorship of its development at MIT has been critical to its rapid scale up and maturity. WPE
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