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MIT’s Liquid Battery

At the risk of being labeled a MITophile, I must admit these clever people never cease to amaze me. For those losing sleep over how to store all the solar energy we can gather in the daylight to use at night, well I give you MIT……

Donald Sadoway, a materials chemistry professor at MIT, has developed a liquid battery that could store enough electricity to allow cities to run on solar power at night. This promising storage option is a new kind of battery made with all-liquid active materials. Prototypes suggest that these liquid batteries will cost less than a third as much as today’s best batteries and could last significantly longer.

The battery is unlike any other. The electrodes are molten metals, and the electrolyte that conducts current between them is a molten salt. This results in an unusually resilient device that can quickly absorb large amounts of electricity. The electrodes can operate at electrical currents “tens of times higher than any [battery] that’s ever been measured. No one had been able to get their arms around the problem of energy storage on a massive scale for the power grid,” says Sadoway. “We’re literally looking at a battery capable of storing the grid.” What’s more, the materials are cheap, and the design allows for simple manufacturing.

batteryDischarged, charging, charged: The molten active components (colored bands: blue, magnesium; green, electrolyte; yellow, antimony) of a new grid-scale storage battery are held in a container that delivers and collects electrical current (left). Here, the battery is ready to be charged, with positive magnesium and negative antimony ions dissolved in the electrolyte. As electric current flows into the cell (center), the magnesium ions in the electrolyte gain electrons and form magnesium metal, which joins the molten magnesium electrode. At the same time, the antimony ions give up electrons to form metal atoms at the opposite electrode. As metal forms, the electrolyte shrinks and the electrodes grow (right), an unusual property for batteries. During discharge, the process is reversed, and the metal atoms become ions again.

The first prototype consists of a container surrounded by insulating material. The researchers add molten raw materials: antimony on the bottom, an electrolyte such as sodium sulfide in the middle, and magnesium at the top. Since each material has a different density, they naturally remain in distinct layers, which simplifies manufacturing. The container doubles as a current collector, delivering electrons from a power supply, such as solar panels, or carrying them away to the electrical grid to supply electricity to homes and businesses.

Sadoway envisions wiring together large cells to form enormous battery packs. One big enough to meet the peak electricity demand in New York City–about 13,000 megawatts–would fill nearly 60,000 square meters. Charging it would require solar farms of unprecedented size, generating not only enough electricity to meet daytime power needs but enough excess power to charge the batteries for nighttime demand. The first systems will probably store energy produced during periods of low electricity demand for use during peak demand, thus reducing the need for new power plants and transmission lines.

Since creating the initial prototypes, the researchers have switched the metals and salts used; it wasn’t possible to dissolve magnesium antimonide in the electrolyte at high concentrations, so the first prototypes were too big to be practical. (Sadowa­y won’t identify the new materials but says they work along the same principles.) The team hopes that a commercial version of the battery will be available in five years.

I don’t know what MIT is putting in their campus water, but I want some!

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No Responses to “MIT’s Liquid Battery”

  1. wilson Says:

    Way to go, MIT! This liquid battery is totally awesome and I also would like to have them as well, Linda!

    wilsons last blog post..Pregnant Women Shouldn’t Eat Too Many Eggs!

  2. shawn Says:

    Five years?? We built the a-bomb in four years.We need true energy leadership to push these new idea at a speed not measured in inches.

  3. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson … Let’s see if we can get one in a couple of years.

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Shawn … That is true and maybe this will come much sooner than expected. Let’s hope it does!

  5. whamx.com Says:

    MIT’s Liquid Battery | Forced Green…

    has developed a liquid battery that could store enough electricity to allow cities to run on solar power at night….

  6. Dell D5318 battery Says:

    How to use it?

  7. Linda Says:

    Hi Dell … For hi-capacity storage for sustainable energies such as solar and wind. It has been a problem on how to store this energy gained for times that it not producing.

  8. Shelby | Heating Elements Says:

    Well lets hope that this take a lot quicker to develop, right now we need every bit of resource available to be able to get our planet healthy again. With this it can be achieved. Once again thanks for a great article.

  9. Linda Says:

    Hi Shelby … You are welcome and come back again!

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