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."
For a deep look a GM's Chevy Volt, we recommend you go to the Drive for Innovation site and follow the cross-country journey of EE Life editorial director Brian Fuller. In the trip sponsored by Avnet Express, Fuller is taking the fire-engine-red Volt to innovation hubs across America, interviewing engineers, entrepreneurs, innovators, and students as he blogs his way across the country.
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.
The question of whether engineers could have foreseen the shortcut maintenance procedures that led to the crash of American Airlines Flight 191 in 1979 will probably linger for as long as there is an engineering profession.
More than 35 years later, the post-mortem on one of the country’s worst engineering disasters appears to be simple. A contractor asked for a change in an original design. The change was approved by engineers, later resulting in a mammoth structural collapse that killed 114 people and injured 216 more.
If you’re an embedded systems engineer whose analog capabilities are getting a little bit rusty, then you’ll want to take note of an upcoming Design News Continuing Education Center class, “Analog Design for the Digital World,” running Monday, Nov. 17 through Friday, Nov. 21.
Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.