Donald Sadoway: Reinventing the Battery

Professor Donald Sadoway says we can’t bomb our way out of our current energy situation; we can’t conserve our way out or drill our way out either. Instead we must invent our way out by working together! Today our electricity demand must be in balance with our electric supply. If the wind suddenly stops while supplying the electric grid other generators must kick on to make up for the loss. When the sun is not out providing solar energy other methods must supply the grid. A giant storage battery however would solve the intermittency problem.

The first battery was invented 200 years ago by Alessandro Volta, an Italian Professor who used a stack of silver and zinc coins as electrodes separated with cardboard soaked in brine (saltwater) as the electrolyte. This battery worked at room temperatures. Professor Sadoway realized that a new battery was needed for today’s increased power consumption and high current surges. One that could handle high temperatures due to surges in electrical current and that could be made from an abundant green energy earth  source to also keep costs down. He says, “if you want to make something dirt cheap – make it from dirt!”

Six years ago Professor Sadoway thought to look into a big consumer of electricity for the answer, namely the production of Aluminum. Aluminum battery cells require high temperatures so the liquid metal enables high currents to flow through. Donald designed his liquid battery to solve modern needs by using two liquid metals for electrodes and molten salt for the electrolyte. When considering what metals might work he looked to the Periodic Table as everything we know is a combination of this in some way. He chose magnesium (Mg) for the top layer and antimony (Sb) for the bottom. To produce current these metals mix across the electrolyte to form an alloy and give us power for our devices. We can then charge the battery from a wind farm, solar, or other green energy source. This storage battery simply stores power waiting for our energy needs.

Instead of hiring “experts” to develop his new battery technology he brought in students and mentored them. At first Sadoway wondered if his battery would really work. After diligently working through his ideas, he along with his students came up with his first test liquid battery which he named “the Shot Glass” because of its small 3/4″ size. It was a success with a 1watt hour capacity. He then went on to a 20 watt hour 3″ battery and named it “the Hockey Puck.” Another success led him to “the Saucer” at 6″ with a 200 watt hour capacity. Next was a 16″ battery called “the Pizza” capable of 1000 watt hours (1 kilowatt). Coming soon professor Sadoway will have the 4 kilowatt hour liquid battery known as the “Bistro Table” which is a stackable 36″ liquid metal battery. This new battery technology is designed to stack as modules and placed  into a 40′ shipping container. This green energy battery will have a capacity of 2 Million watt hours and enough to power the daily needs of 200 American households!

Professor Sadoway’s liquid metal battery has these great feautures:

● Silent Operation
● Emissions Free
● No Moving Parts
● Remote Controllable

The big differences from conventional wisdom are:

● Liquid metal battery is designed for elevated temperatures which come from electrical current surges
● Reduces costs by producing fewer yet larger batteries rather than producing many
● He hired  students and mentored them rather than hiring expert professionals

Donald Sadoway believes that rather than inventing only technology a better blueprint is to invent Inventors.

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