Sunday, August 31, 2014

The New Face of Electricity

Ambri liquid battery is one of a dozen companies trying to revolutionize the power grid with a new energy storage device - Al Jazeera America (Credit: Ambri) Click to enlarge.
When Elon Musk’s Tesla announced that it will start building lithium ion batteries to fuel its electric cars and signed a deal with Panasonic to build a $5 billion Gigafactory, it resonated in certain circles as the ultimate challenge.

The race for energy storage is on.  Tesla’s lithium ion is in the lead, but other companies think they can invent a better, cheaper battery.  Not for cars, but to harness renewable energy like wind and solar and make the world’s electricity infrastructure more resilient and reliable.

“If I could boost this nation’s electricity production by 40 percent without having to build one power plant, that means the unit cost of electricity is going to fall and the amount of pollution is going to fall.  Who’s not going to cheer about that?” says Donald Sadoway, inventor of a liquid battery for Ambri, a four-year-old company that thinks it has a battery that will change the world.

It consists of two liquid metals and a salt solution.  “It accepts electrical current from the grid, stores it and will return it back when it’s needed,” says David Bradwell, Ambri’s chief technology officer.

There are about a dozen companies that are working on different batteries, each with a unique combination of materials and components.  Big-name investors are seeding the industry with big money and placing their bets on which company will come up with the winning idea.  Ambri has the backing of Bill Gates and Total, a French energy company.

The New Face of Electricity

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