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Liquid Metal Battery

Okian Warrior (537106) writes | more than 3 years ago

Technology 1

Okian Warrior writes "Donald Sadoway at MIT has invented a new type of battery using liquid metal.

The invention uses a molten salt composed of two metals. Under electrolysis, the salt separates into the metal components — one of which is lighter than the salt and floats to the top, the other being denser and sinks to the bottom.

Put energy in and the salt separates — the metal layers get thicker and the salt layer gets thinner. Reverse the process to take energy out — salt is formed and the metal layers get thinner.

Supposedly more power density than lithium batteries, and a good match for installing at fixed locations, such as the base of windmills."

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A potentially worthy competitor (1)

doublebackslash (702979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35876222)

This seems like a worthy competitor to flow batteries and other bulk energy storage.

Comparing it to a flow battery [wikimedia.org] (which is a battery where the electrolyte flows from storage to the the reaction area instead of having to stay in one place) it seems like this technology neatly solves one limitation. Flow batteries have energy producing components and electrolyte storage and they scale independently (get more electrolyte to extend runtime, get more reaction units to up capacity) but this neatly combines them into one.

Provided that the chemicals aren't too strange or expensive (the article hints that the system isn't meant for portable use, but rather grid level stationary storage) and that the power loss to get the power in / back is better than, say, compressed underground air or water pumping, I can see it being a worthy competitor.

Should they become common enough they might nicely compliment more real time needs on a local grid and not just renewable power, like peak air conditioning load or the nightly plug in car load of the not to distant future (power grid sized systems require a lot of forethought, so don't scoff at planning for it now). By leveling the load even by a tiny amount the power companies can use more of the base and less peak power generation. This is a big deal because peak power is often the most expensive and/or least efficient type of power generation, like natural gas. They have to keep them around because of the power use patterns and the inability to quickly "throttle" the base power plants like nuclear or hydro-electric (or because they are run as close to capacity as they can be to lower the cost per KWh for the grid as a whole). These peak power plants can go cycle on and off very quickly and throttle as needed to keep residential power coming in at 120vac and 60 hz.

Kill even a bit of the need for peak power and the savings is instant and real.

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