An interesting 'teaser' article - you have my interest but the engineer in me wants more details! I reluctantly acknowledge the main thrust of the article/post is to hit the high lights (i.e. Bill Gates, Liquid Metal Battery Corp, (LMBC) wind, solar, etc) but how about more?
There is NO doubt that large capacity storage of electrical energy is one of the key components in implementation of renewable energy past some percentage of useage (the figure of 20% is sort of sticking in my mind - we are somewhere in the 5% range now (??)) and we absolutely must have some efficient and cost competitive way of getting there. The work being done by LMBC is promising.
OK, on reflection, I guess I should go out on the web when I have sometime and do a bit of wandering around in search of more details. The inquisitive mind.
This is a good opportunity for an investor like Bill Gates. He gets to invest in something that can potentially make lots of money while also helping the environment and the country. LiIon batteries may be a dead end unless someone can come up with a safer approach. While we concentrate on the Chevy Voit battery problems today, I wonder how many remember the fire issue with the Apple MacBook a wuile back. What we need are solutions that match the application. Batteries for distributed utility power do not need to be the same as batteries for mobile devices, or even cars.
As interesting and significant as this is -- as the story says "The company's battery can store about 1.2MWh -- or about 300kW with a four-hour drain time. Sadoway believes it could handle the extra capacity that the grid uses during peak load times" -- the real challenge isn't big batteries which can store more Wh. It's on small batteries, for EVs. As Chuck has written many times, the progress there hasn't met expectations, or, more correctly, promises and hopes. At best, we have specmanship which attempts to make things sound/seem better than they are.
While Bill Gates' financial backing is not a certainty of success, it can't hurt this startup and even better, it shines a spotlight on what you say is one the "great underappreciated issues of renewable energy," energy storage, for the broader public. It can only serve to foster more attention and hopefully, more investment in this very important technology issue.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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