Small energy startup company Ambri plans to transform the energy sector with their liquid metal battery. By stringing together a number of large battery cells shaped like large round cake pans, Ambri plans to create enormous batteries, some as large as 40-foot shipping containers.
The size of Ambri’s planned batteries is impressive, but what makes them truly different is the material used on the inside.
When heated to around 500 °C, the disks and powder inside the cell, the battery’s electrodes and electrolytes, will melt. Voilà, the resulting battery has components that are completely liquid.
Conventional rechargeable batteries have solid electrodes that degrade with use, but a battery with only liquid parts could last for years without losing much of its energy storage capacity. Liquid materials also have the ability to operate at higher current densities than solids, thus operating for longer periods of time as well.
If Ambri, or any other company, is able to make grid storage inexpensive, the way we get electricity will be changed forever. The grid cannot be powered by wind or solar power alone since these sources are intermittent.
A constant balance must be struck between energy generation and energy consumption and the system must be stable during peak demand. That means wind and solar farms are typically backed up with natural-gas plants that can quickly add to the electricity supply.
The ability to bring in stored power when needed would mean that some of those fossil-fuel power plants could be closed and new ones wouldn’t have to be built.