Maybe the technology that he SHOULD be funding is the next generation of computer operating systems that perform correctly ALL THE TIME. Here's a novel thought. He could invent a multitasking system and name it DOORS 3.2, since someone else has already trademarked the WINDOWS moniker!!!!! Or, how about OS/2.2? That's another catchy name..........
OK, i'll say it again, energy storage via kinetic energy, not hydro but flywheels. Direct conversion of electricity, both in and out, at high effeciency, small footprint, near zero environmental impact, scalable. Why is everyone so fixated on yet-to-be-discovered battery improvements and ignoring this mature techmology? Even it it is used as a bridge solution it is affordable and implementable right now.
I understand the "Mister Monopolizer" moniker, but I have to give Gates credit on this: It's one of five battery start-ups that he's funding. Development of battery technology is difficult at best, with serious doubt as to any payoff in the long run. If it works, we're all the better for it in the end.
In response to the suggestion of using pumped storage, it is expensive and not that efficient, and it requires a whole lot of land, plus it could have a huge environmental impact. Other than those problems, it may be OK.
Seeing " Mister Monopolizer" funding any potentially crucial development is cause for concern.
The biggest challenge related to liquid metal batteries is keeping them hot, because it would require a lot of power just to do that, unless the battery uses mercury, in which case the howel from the safety people will be quite loud.
What about the polystyrene battery that I read about being developed, which is supposedly ten times better .
Dr Xie Xian Ning from the National University of Singapore's Nanoscience and Nanotechnology Initiative and his team developed the soft, foldable membrane using a polystyrene-based polymer. When sandwiched between two charged metal plates it can store charge at 0.2 farads per square centimetre, which is claimed to be well above the typical upper limit for a standard capacitor.
Most polystyrene plastics are not very toxic, as well as not very expensive. Those are two valuable characteristics to have in a bettery. At this point it would be worthwhile to have more people investigating that approach.
Of course we must make sure that some patent troll does not get hold of the patent. Perhaps I am being a bit ahead of things with that thought, but maybe not.
To DougISanDiego: You're right -- the technique you describe is pumped hydro, and it is currently the largest form of storage that we have (albeit, we have very little storage). The problem with pumped hydro is that it takes up large chunks of land -- too large, I'm told, to be seriously considered as a large-scale solution. It's a case of counties not wanting it in their backyards.
First of all, let me state that I'm an electrical engineer, so all the discussion about this chemistry and that chemistry pretty much goes over my head. To me, most of these battery technologies sounds dangerous, difficult to control, and inefficient - and with a short life span to boot.
Why don't we consider using one of the oldest 'battery' technologies around: reservoirs? Use the excess energy from the renewable sources to pump water up the mountain to the upper reservoir. When the energy is needed, let the water flow down to the lower reservoir while spinning the turbines on the way down.
Are batteries significanly more efficient than reservoirs? Water reservoirs are certainly more safe, last longer, and other than the small amount that evaporates or seeps into the ground, the energy stored in a reservoir has a very long 'shelf life'. Of course, there are other benefits to water reservoirs - they can be great sources of recreational activity too.
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