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Batteries Ambri

Published on August 30th, 2012 | by Cynthia Shahan


Liquid Metal Battery Company is Now “Ambri”

August 30th, 2012 by  

Molten salt sandwiched between two layers of liquid metal constitutes the inside of a new battery developed by Ambri, a company founded in Cambridge, and the evolving creation of MIT Professor Don Sadoway. The company and the battery is now backed by Bill Gates, who met Sadoway after he took an online class of his at MIT.

This startup is developing the battery based on liquid metal electrodes to be stable and scalable at an acceptably low cost for grid storage and renewable energy storage applications.

“A dirt cheap battery that could be used for the power grid could overcome the variable nature of clean power or the problem that the sun only shines and the wind only blows at certain times of day.”

It should be ready for commercialization in about 2 years.


Along with Gates, oil company Total and venture capital firm Khosla Ventures have invested in Ambri, as well as the Department of Energy’s high-risk, early-stage ARPA-E program, which gave Ambri a $6.9 million grant.

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  • Antimony is even harder to come by than lead, and about as toxic… And magnesium is not exactly cheap or plentiful. A very questionable battery tech to say the least.

    • Bob_Wallace

      From a comment just above yours…

      “Good news from their website: “Ambri’s liquid metal battery was initially based on magnesium and antimony as the negative and positive electrodes, respectively, and a low cost molten salt electrolyte. Since then, Ambri has transitioned to using higher voltage and lower cost chemistries.””

      Toxicity is not an issue. This is a contained system.

  • DavidSnydacker

    Are they still using Antimony? Hopefully they have found something more abundant and less toxic?

    • DavidSnydacker

      Good news from their website: “Ambri’s liquid metal battery was initially based on magnesium and antimony as the negative and positive electrodes, respectively, and a low cost molten salt electrolyte. Since then, Ambri has transitioned to using higher voltage and lower cost chemistries.”

      • Interersting, when he presented on Colbert, he must have showed a legacy or prototype, cause it still had Antimony in the cut-cross-section… Of course Colbert never shuts up enough to let the MIT professor say anything…

        • Yeah, think it’s probably an old image… but not sure. Yeah, Colbert loves to hear his own voice. 😀 I love the show/humor, but it would be nice if he gave a little more time to the interviewees to let them say something of relevance.

  • This looks very encouraging indeed.

    The cell structure seems to be dead simple so practically anyone will be able to produce these kinds of batteries.

    • Bob_Wallace

      I try to not get too excited about technologies that aren’t yet in application, but if they’ve had a working prototype in the lab for a year and a half and some knowledgeable players are investing then my interest rises.

      I’m sure that Gates et al. sent in some qualified people to take a close look before writing a check. They would be able to see all sorts of stuff under a non-disclose agreement that we won’t see.

  • Very very exciting, Now it is wait and see, do they make the 2 years to commercialization and what the cost will be as they sclae up. Fingers crossed!

  • Bob_Wallace

    A prototype has undergone 17 months of charge/discharge cycles without loss of capacity.

    If this works out as it seems to be then the storage issue is solved. Batteries are essentially instant to respond to grid needs and easy to site. They can be spread around the grid which reduces transmission costs and provides uninterrupted power when a line goes down.

    The materials in this battery are available in large quantity and cheap. There should be no recycling issue. Hard to see how it could get better.

    • Ross

      How many cycles per day? The down vote was a mistake by me, sorry.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I haven’t found that data. One would think that they would be cycling as quickly as possible in order to identify problems ASAP.

        I thought I read 7,000 cycles somewhere but can’t find that info. If it’s accurate then that would be 12+ cycles per day.

      • Bob_Wallace

        I’m finding conflicting info on the web…

        “The goal is to eventually produce batteries of great capacity and with quick discharge at very low cost. At present, however, the firm has only produced test batteries that have completed a mere 30 charge cycles successfully and with an efficiency of merely “up to 69 percent” (standard lead batteries are closer to 90 percent), ….”

        *“The liquid electrodes avoid cycle-to-cycle capacity fade because they reconstitute with each charge,” he says. Prototypes have operated in a lab environment for more than 17 months with daily cycling and no reduction in performance. A molten-salt electrolyte separates the electrodes and combines high conductivity with a tolerance for abuse.*
        *The liquid components segregate themselves due to three immiscible liquid phases of different densities (like oil and water) allowing for reliable operation and manufacturing ease. These attributes let the liquid metal battery exceed 70% round-trip ac efficiency for over a decade and without degradation.”*
        * http://www.windpowerengineering.com/news/liquid-metal-battery-capable-of-storing-500kv-and-2-mwh/ *

        Of course lower efficiency is tolerable if battery price is sufficiently low. We can make all the renewable electricity we want for a very small price. If we start with <$0.05/kWh electricity and loose 25% in the storage process we've still got <$0.07/kWh electricity plus a small amount for the storage 'equipment'.

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