LMBC wants to change that. The company's battery is liquid-based and remains in that state as it operates at high temperatures (400C to 700C). The essential components include a high-density liquid metal that lies at the bottom of the cell, a molten salt electrolyte atop that, and a low-density liquid metal above the molten salt. The two liquid metal layers serve as electrodes, while the molten salt acts as an electroloyte. The difference between the metals gives rise to the battery's voltage.
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.
"You would only need to store that small portion of the grid's power," he told Design News. "Then, you could obviate the need for so much idle capacity, which just sits there now."
Others have had similar visions. VRB Power Systems, Inc. has installed vanadium-based fuel cells in wind and solar applications around the globe. NGK Insulators Ltd. has created sodium-sulfur batteries for "load leveling and peak shaving." And various entities have created monster-sized grid batteries using tens of thousands of handheld-sized (18650-sized) lithium-ion cells in a container the size of a trailer.
However, Sadoway argues that the lithium-ion setup is too expensive and too labor-intensive.
LMBC believes its technology could have different sizes and multiple applications, including single-family homes, commercial and industrial settings, and utility-based backup for renewable sources.
"If you have a battery that's cheap and reliable and will allow you to use electricity from the sun, even when the sun isn't shining, that's powerful," Sadoway said. "That's a game changer."