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Liquid Battery from Molten Salts Invented at MIT

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MIT’s liquid battery is actually composed of two molten metals, acting as electrodes, and one molten salt, acting as an electrolyte.

As always, MIT is coming with lots of interesting ideas that often represent really viable ways of improving our energy sources. This time, MIT has come up with a special type of battery never seen before.

It is a liquid battery, since everything in it is liquid. The liquids are, from bottom to top: antimony, sodium sulfide, and magnesium.

When the liquid battery is fully charged, the two metals are separated from the electrolyte. When you connect a load on the battery, the metals slowly react and dissolve into the electrolyte, ionize, and the electrolyte portion is getting larger, as the electrodes get thinner. When you charge the battery, magnesium ions are reduced and the antimony ions are oxidized, and return to their initial state. The process resembles the picture above.

The scientists have found cheaper and better materials for real world applications, but they are not disclosing them already. One of the liquid battery inventors, Donald Sadoway, envisions this battery powering up the entire New York city at night, while during the day they are being charged from the greatest solar power farm in the world producing 13,000 megawatts. The calculations revel they’d need about 60,000 square meters of battery storage.

Except the fact that these batteries can bear very high currents, “tens of times higher than any [battery] that’s ever been measured”, no other numbers are given (like recharging time, self-discharge, capacity).

Anyway, expect this liquid battery to be used commercially only in the next five years. It’s a more environmentally friendly option for our future electric cars. Let’s hope it’s not too late until decent storage options are actually used, from the moment of their invention.

[via Ecogeek, MIT]

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10 COMMENTS

  1. @KC Expect China’s huge demand for energy of all kinds to make even selling American Coal, Oil and Gas to them a means to balance our budget, and pay down our enormous foreign debt . This will force the consumer cost of energy products to the plebs to move upwards in exponential fashion at home – making any system for conserving these expensive commodities very necessary. Outside  of the Chinese Thorium LFTR reactor miracle – proposed to “Alter Global  Energy Maps Forever”, America now enters a period of energy peril – where Asians with U.S. Dollar   surpluses are biding the price of Oil, Gas, Coal, ever upward, as the same time as the Feds are  printing the Purchasing Price Package of that same dollar ever downward. Today your nickles would be worth about three cents, and in five years, they would go the way of the penny!

  2. I actually heard Don Sadoway give a talk about this battery, and he specifically stated this would never go in a vehicle of any kind. It’s a stationary battery for utility scale applications. As someone pointed out, you simply can’t put it in a car because the motion would cause it to mix, something Sadoway also mentioned in his talk.

  3. A great solution to a non-problem, since it is far cheaper to use flexible generation, demand-side managment, and a host of other techniques to integrate wind and solar power than to use these ridiculously expensive battery storage technologies. Batteries are also far too small to compete with conventional storage, like pumped hydroelectric, and if I had a nickle for every “revolutionary” technology that was going to be commercialized in just 5 years, the Federal Reserve would be asking me for a bailout.

  4. The liquid battery is a really great invention. It is more efficient and has higher capacity than the regular car batteries. Hope to see this soon on our future electric cars.

  5. The middle layer has to separate the top and bottom layers.
    Put this in a car and the fluids would just get mixed together by the cars motion and stop working.

  6. Er, Jack…

    A. go out to your car and turn it on, then gasp in horror as volatile toxic gases are explosively oxidized by a dangerously high voltage discharge of electricity.

    B. go back and read the part of this article that says “The scientists have found cheaper and better materials to use for real world applications”

  7. I’d like to point out that this is molten metal. The idea of keeping this thing in your car is pretty horrifying if you think about. It also probably weighs half a ton with insulation. You can’t of paid much attention to the article you got this from to think that a box of molten metals would be good to send zipping down the freeway.

  8. Just a reminder of the days when folks thought lead/acid was the last word in batteries and limited solar power was to “weakly dispersed” to be practical! Now, we speak in terms rivaling nuclear power, and completely safe, no Armageddon sized error factor, no poisonous wastes either! Even Wind can benefit from a reliable high power storage system, and certainly Tidal will become more popular. Geothermal, the last frontier will plow ahead as soon as the folks realize it is easy to detect, and cheaper to drill for then oil – but breaks away from convention, so requires thought to get there, but remains renewable, or perpetual, if you wish, and unlike the oil well, never goes dry. Thank You, MIT, You have shown promising technologies for the future, and now need to sell some patent rights before America goes broke and can’t afford to develop these fine ideas.

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