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Podcast / Audio

Here Comes the Energy Storage Revolution

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Martin Rosenberg's picture
Journalist, Author, Social Media and Conference Architect Hippo Energy Media

Experienced journalist, executive conference architect, strategic thinker with a demonstrated history of working in information services. Strong professional skilled in Copywriting, Editing...

  • Member since 2005
  • 62 items added with 31,986 views
  • Aug 4, 2022

The push to decarbonize electricity production in the U.S. focuses heavily on solar and wind generation. But delivering reliable energy from intermittent resource will require an upgrade in energy storage capabilities.

This episode of Grid Talk features Don Sadoway who is the John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT. He’s one of the leading experts on emerging battery products and at the helm of about a half dozen startups ready to speed deployment of the most promising approaches into the marketplace.

“We have to deal with the intermittency. And nobody wants green electricity that’s only available part-time; they want it all the time, so that means storage.”

That’s where the liquid metal battery comes in. Sadoway will explain why he believes it will revolutionize battery storage.

“The aluminum/sulfur battery is no cobalt, no nickel, no manganese, no volatile flammable electrolyte, no graphite, forget the silicon. This is no lithium.”

One of his companies is set to release its first product in about a year. When people see it working, things could really take off. 

“A liquid metal battery could be in the basement of every one of the skyscrapers in Manhattan.”

Professor Sadoway has been at MIT for 44 years. His research seeks to establish the scientific underpinnings for technologies that make efficient use of energy and natural resources in an environmentally sound manner. This spans engineering applications and the supportive fundamental science. The overarching theme of his work is electrochemistry in nonaqueous media.

He holds the following degrees:

B.A.Sc., Engineering Science, University of Toronto

M.A.Sc., Chemical Metallurgy, University of Toronto

Ph.D., Chemical Metallurgy, University of Toronto

Grid Talk is a podcast featuring the leaders and innovators shaping the 21st century grid. Hear the stories—in their own words—of how they are meeting the challenges and transitioning their businesses to operate successfully in a new era of evolving markets, changing regulations, higher customer expectation, increasing cybersecurity threats, demands for cleaner energy sources, growing customer-owned generations and emerging technology. The podcast is part of Department of Energy’s Voices of Experience, an initiative that supports grid modernization by sharing insights, lessons learned and advice on operating in a rapidly evolving industry.

About the Host

Grid Talk is hosted by award winning, energy journalist Marty Rosenberg. For nearly 40 years, Marty has been covering business, energy, finance, and technology. He was the Editor-in-Chief for EnergyBiz from 2004 to 2014. EnergyBiz was an award-winning national publication covering energy and utilities. Marty has been published in multiple media outlets including the New York Times, Huffington Post and USA Today. Marty plugs into the industry knowledge base to deliver critical information about the opportunities and challenges facing utilities today. The result is engaging conversations about modernizing our electric grid.

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Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Aug 5, 2022

I got an error on my post.

How do these compare to the Tesla Mega and Giga batteries they have installed all over the world?

 In weight, capacity and life.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 7, 2022

Don't know if it's the same issue, but I got an error on the link from the summary in the EC postings list to the article itself. Don't know why, but in Chrome, right click, "copy link address", open new window, and paste URL into new window worked fine to open Martin's article and your comment above.

The article mentions MIT battery guru Don Sadoway's aluminum-sulfur battery. There's an embedded podcast that I haven't yet listened to. May comment again after I've done so. But I'll say that from what I've gleaned, the high temperature alumuninum-sulfur battery is a good candidate for grid-scale energy storage on a 4 - 10 hour time scale for duration. An abundant materials and low footprint strong competitor to to lithium-ion technology for stationary batteries if things work out for it. But I don't know if it truly represents an energy storage revolution. Its energy storage capacity will still be way too expensive to solve the seasonal energy problem for variable renewables or to cope with prolonged episodes of "dunkelflaute" (heavy overcast combined with wind droughts for weeks at a time.) But maybe the podcast touches on other storage options. I'll have to see.

Roger Arnold's picture
Roger Arnold on Aug 7, 2022

OK, I've listened to the podcast. It mentions other battery efforts that Prof. Sadoway has been involved with -- notably AMBRI, a liquid metal molten salt battery using calcium and antimony. Sadoway says that AMBRI will be making its first commercial shipments in a couple of months to a major customer for use in data centers. Sounds a lot like Microsoft. He thinks AMBRI's technology is a big step up over lithium-ion for stationary applications. (Lower cost / mWh, and safer). He expects shipments to ramp up quickly if things go well with this first big customer. But Sadoway has a separate venture going for molten aluminum-sulfur that he thinks will be even better. It's not as far along in development, however. 

If molten aluminum-sulfur is as good as Sadoway believes, it possibly could be the game changer that everyone has been hoping for. I'll hold off on the celebrations, however. It's not that I know of any specific killer problems, but I know that the idea of liquid metal batteries with molten salt electrolytes isn't something that Prof. Sadoway was the first to think of. The idea has been kicking around for a long time. There have to be reasons why an aluminum-sulfur battery hasn't been developed earlier. Even if the good professor has devised some ingenious solutions to whatever made them impractical earlier, the journey from lab prototype to commercial is always much more difficult than its developers expected. We'll just have to see how this develops.

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