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Published on April 14th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Donald Sadoway Liquid Batteries TED Talk

April 14th, 2012 by  

Nicholas wrote in February about an innovative ‘liquid battery’ designed by Dr. Donald Sadoway and his research team at MIT. Sadoway’s liquid metal batteries have many people a tad excited, so it’s natural that he’d be talking about the batteries at TED. He recently spoke at TED 2012: Full Spectrum — here’s a video of that:

h/t MIT

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About the Author

Zach is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • Bob_Wallace

    No, YOU can’t trust the news. So best you quit paying any attention to the news.

    Just because the news reports that Gates, Khosla Ventures, and Total oil have invested in Ambri certainly does not make it true. Using your standards. They will not have invested in Ambri until you can read it in their financial statements.

    “Now show me any other successful business that has lost $8.1 million in investments, not even starting to do something!?”

    OK, I won’t show you that car companies generally invest a billion dollars developing and tooling up for a new car model before a singly one comes off the assembly line. That isn’t news you can use. I won’t show you that it’s common for companies to loose millions of dollars before they become profitable.

    You don’t like liquid batteries for some reason that you won’t disclose. I can accept that.

    I find the idea interesting and the fact that there are (only reported in the news) operating prototypes which are performing fine. I’m hoping for a cheap battery grid storage solution and liquid batteries are one of four technologies that I’m following.

    Unfortunately I can only follow these technologies in the news, so by your standards none of them likely exist.

    I fully understand that many interesting and promising projects never pan out. Many promising ideas reach prototype stage and fade away. Others perform at prototype stage but won’t scale up. Some succeed.

    No one here is stating that liquid metal batteries are a proven solution to grid storage. We’re just interested in watching the progress of promising projects as well as in things you can buy in the store today. And we’re grown up enough to know the difference.

    • Sergey

      Sorry. I’m just tired of the debate with no arguments.
      About me. I can do whatever I want, I’ll do what I see fit. I can afford it.
      Six months, a simple chemical lab. equipment, plus certain amount of money and I’ll give you a full report+ about this “new” technology.
      Want to support my project? Is there anyone else who is ready to accept this offer?

      • Bob_Wallace

        You’ve taken this all the way to silly.

        Have a nice day….

        • Sergey

          To: Bob_Wallace.
          Just want to let you know that it was a ‘zero’ offers in the last two weeks.
          In any case, my address is p441 at hotmail. Any suggestions on cooperation in the radius of 20 miles from Boston, MA.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Am I surprised that no one has offered you money?

            No, I’m not….

          • Sergey

            Forget about the money. No one even suggested a lab time. Actually, I’m not surprised, just like you.

  • Sergey

    Sorry. But I think that this idea does not work. This is confirmed by the fact that we do not see any working battery based this principle. Even the author can not show any real battery.
    In addition, the combination of the components completely unsafe. Mg is easily ignited and releases a lot of energy, and Sb is very poisonous.

    • Bob_Wallace

      This link should work. I just copied it from the site.

      Ambri has working prototypes. They are now (I believe) working on optimal size and shape.


      Gasoline is easily ignited. Nuclear reactors blow up. Lead is poisonous. Hydrogen is flammable. Ammonia is very nasty stuff. Lithium burns. Your concern is noted….

      • Sergey

        Do not be upset. I, just, do not like the arguments that are taken from “popular science” sources or youtube.
        It was a Good NEWS in 2009. Now – 2012. The real state of the experiments you can read on MIT website
        ( http://sadoway.mit.edu/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Sadoway_Resume/141.pdf ).
        Of course, it’s a little boring. I think that the following video will cheer up you, a little:

        • Bob_Wallace

          The article you link was written a year ago.

          You can get more recent information from the Ambri web site. The liquid metal battery has moved out of MIT, has a company and a couple of fairly impressive investors. And well-performing prototypes.

          Your linked video? Dumb. And boring. But I lasted only about 30 seconds so maybe the good stuff happened later….

          • Sergey

            All that can be read on the Internet it is taken from the MIT’s document at the link above. Of course, I find that very hard to believe in this technology. At the same time, you do not have arguments (scientific publications) that would show me the opposite. That’s all. Let’s stop on this.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Except that your claim is not true. Does the JACS paper talk about the new chemistry now that Ambri has moved on from the initial magnesium and antimony chemistry?

            Does it include information about how many discharge cycles have been performed with the new chemistry?

            I think not.

            Now, if the only information that you are open to is that information published in journal articles, that’s a threshold you’ve established for yourself. Personally I doubt that Ambri is going to publish “trade secrets” while it works to bring product to market.

            You are very free to stop discussing Ambri and liquid metal batteries if you wish.

            Have a nice day….

        • actually, the technology and company are progressing quite well (with backing from Bill Gates, Khosla Ventures, the DOE, and others). we just posted an update last month: http://cleantechnica.com/2012/08/30/liquid-metal-battery-ambri/

          • Sergey

            Thanks for the link. At least we can see that Bill Gates is no longer participates in the financing of this project.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Two questions Sergey –

            1) Where did you see the news that Gates has withdrawn his financing of Ambri?

            2) What about this technology has you so upset? Is there another storage technology that you favor and feel is threatened?

          • Sergey

            I live near Cambridge MA. Want to show me a working sample of the liquid battery? You can choose any day you want.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Ambri Inc.
            237 Putnam Avenue
            Cambridge, MA 02139

            Just walk over there and tell them that you think they’re liars.

          • Sergey

            Give me one good reason why I should do it.

          • I’m not sure if i follow — why do you say Gates is no longer participating when the recent story i just shared said he was?

          • Sergey

            I just can not find any confirmation of this fact in the public domain.

    • it’s moving forward, with big backing from Bill Gates, Khosla, some big companies, and others.

      Think the inputs have changed to less concerning substances.

  • Hope

    Great talk. And heartening to see a product instead of concept. Also its TED, who doesn’t love TED.

  • lukealization

    Great talk, and what a fantastic invention.

  • This is awesome stuff. Insulate it, and/or heat it with solar and I bet it would make a nifty cogeneration system.


  • sambar

    Not to be picky, but I believe it’s Donald Sadoway.

    • Dcard88

      Nice pick-up and a surprising mistake by Zachary

    • John

      Professor Don Sadoway, says MIT.

    • yeah, correcting someone’s name is not picky 😀

      i’m not sure where i picked up the mistake — i remember checking the spelling bcs i thought it looked funny. apparently, while doing so, i didn’t notice the correct spelling on the TED video.


  • sambar

    Looks like this would even be usable at a scale that would allow it to be installed in individual homes for distributed use and possibly also drawing some of the heat for other uses.

  • ThomasGerke

    I hope they manage to get this technology ready for serial production within a few years. Perhaps as fast as 2015? It sure sounds like an awesome way of tackling the problem at hand.

    The targeted scale sounds also very promising, because it favours distributed installation.

    • yeah, i’m always cautious about tech still in the lab, but this looks exciting.

      • ThomasGerke

        I think this stage of the market commercialisation of a new technology is called the “valley of death” 😉

        If the concept is as straight forward as he described it, it could go to large scale demonstration within a few years. If they are successful it could go fast, since demand will be pretty high.

        Power-to-Gas technology definatly is developing rapidly… straight forward technology, from the lab to large industrial demonstration within a few years.

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