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Batteries Image Credit: Ambri.

Published on November 14th, 2013 | by Nicholas Brown

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MIT’s Ambri Opens Factory

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November 14th, 2013 by  

Ambri, a startup company which stemmed from MIT, has opened its liquid metal battery factory alongside the Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.

At the moment, the company has a prototype with an energy storage capacity of 35 kWh and a peak wattage of 8.75 kW. It will only manufacture prototypes and demonstration units for the moment. However, Ambri intends to start mass production of a larger version of these batteries in 2016, which will have an energy storage capacity of 2 MWh, useful for grid-scale storage. These batteries utilize molten antimony and molten magnesium separated by an electrolyte. Showing that Hawaii might benefit from this technology, Ambri’s CEO, Phil Giudice, said:

Consumers in Hawaii are plagued by high electricity prices because their generation system is based primarily on diesel fuel. Wind and solar resources paired with energy storage can completely replace the diesel infrastructure, resulting in lower electricity prices and a more reliable electricity grid.

Image Credit: Ambri.

Thanks to Phil Giudice for pointing that out! Market penetration limits that some people put on wind and solar power could only be true under unlikely circumstances, under which there is hardly any scalable backup power or energy storage. There is plenty of the former around the world (partially scalable), and the grid energy storage industry is growing fast.

I can see the effect that weather and night-time darkness have on solar power generation first hand, as I set up my own small-scale solar PV system with a battery. There are no power disruptions under any circumstance in my situation.

Ambri raised $15 million from Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, and energy company Total in 2012. It is one of the energy storage companies people are most excitedly keeping an eye on. We’ll keep you updated as the company progresses. For now, scroll through our Ambri archives for more history and details, or head on over to the Ambri website.

Follow me on Twitter @Kompulsa.

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About the Author

writes on CleanTechnica, Gas2, Kleef&Co, and Green Building Elements. He has a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, and geography. His website is: Kompulsa.com.



  • Matt

    Glad to hear they are moving forward, have high hopes for them. but “only manufacture prototypes and demonstration units” and in 2016 plans to make “grid level”. So not clear if they plan a consumer size device at all or what the grid level device is likely to cost. Still hopeful, but can’t tell they are keep the card real close.

    • Bob_Wallace

      What I think they are doing now is not battery prototypes, but manufacturing process prototypes.

      Their product is different from other batteries and will likely need quite different machinery, new machines will have to be developed. They would want to go into actual manufacturing with a good process and that will take some tinkering. Set up what they think will work, run some materials through and look for ways to improve.

      • MorinMoss

        Does anyone know what battery chemistry they’re really using?

        Sadoway’s presentation was all about Mg-Sb but I found this in their brochure:

        “For our initial chemistry, we worked with magnesium (Mg) and antimony (Sb) electrodes and have since moved to a chemistry with a higher voltage and lower cost”

        • Bob_Wallace

          I don’t think they’ve made that public. I’ve got an alert set for Ambri and I’ve seen nothing on the web.

          Companies tend to get quite once they secure the funding they need. No reason to give the competition any assistance.

          • MorinMoss

            Then I guess I’ll hear about it here when it’s revealed.
            I think it’s evident that I’m all for innovative energy storage but I couldn’t see what made Mg-Sb so compelling over the better established (and cheaper?) Na-S

    • andereandre

      These batteries operate at high temperatures which I would think is much easier to reach and maintain in large sized units. So I don’t think this technique is suitable for the consumer market.

      • eject

        35kWh and 8.75kW peak is imho the absolute minimum for a normal German household, even then I couldn’t run a Induction Hob, the one my family has is fused with 3x16A (at 230V!). I don’t think it would suffice for US Americans if they don’t cut back on normal consumption.

        So the models they are making at the moment arenät even sufficient for that. Well, or you get 5 of them. Insulating is actually no problem. Sodum Sulfur batteries are contained in an evacuated shell with a heat pipe that can be turned on and off (because with proper usage you actually have to get the heat out of the pack). Wikipedia says those batteries can be on standby for days in a row without freezing.
        Can’t imagine that this wouldn’t work for the Ambri ones. However, they would need some sort of holiday mode where they charge and discharge for fun. I.e. shift some current to the grid and reload some from the panels or the grid if necessary.

        • JoanTheSpark

          Statistics want a word with you there…
          Even worst case the values don’t exceed 7.5MWh per year for a 4-5 person single family home with electric warm water heater, that’s 20.5kWh per day on average.

          http://www.energieheld.de/blog/energieverbrauch-eines-wohnhauses/
          http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedarf_an_elektrischer_Energie
          http://www.ewb.ch/de/wissen/artikel/strom/durchschnittsverbrauch.html?tx_netvtagbase_pi1tags=891&tx_netvtagbase_pi1startlimit=3

          Admittedly though, those numbers don’t factor in an EV or two per family yet.

          Also, the fusing of your induction cook-top is for worst case usage and a bit. You would actually need to check the nameplate and read what it’s really using (and even then you’d need to run all plates together full power).
          It’s the same as with your little power supplies.. they can deliver 12V 1A for example, but the appliance behind probably only uses 50% of that during normal use.
          Especially Laptop PSUs (the black bricks) are way overrated – if you would just run the Laptop from them. But what they are expect to be able to do is recharge your machine after it’s been run out of juice within a short time (1 hour, eh?) and at the same time the machine has to work too..

          Conclusion:
          10-15kWh real storage (for overnight and smoothing of supply) with renewable recharge during the day (if solar) would be sufficient for the average household for the time being. There are people completely off the grid which go by fine with 25kWh Lead Acid Battery storage (not much more than 50% useable storage if you don’t want to kill the LABs early).

          • eject

            I would say you need storage for more then one night and as you mention statistics.
            You obviously should look at the upper limit a normal household uses on a day not the average.
            And my main concern is with peak power. That induction hob definitely can deliver 10kW for a single plate in boost (that works only if you use a single plate). That is why it is so fun using it. Not even gas hobs beat that.
            8kW peak is definitely not enough for someone in a small village. They all have power tools.
            Yo would definitely need at least 3 of those batteries, one for each phase.

    • Randy

      You plan to keep a battery in your home that has to be kept at over a 1000 degrees?

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