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US researchers unveil liquid batteries to store energy

Storage technology could be “game changer” for renewable energy

The MIT battery has low cost components, researchers say
The MIT battery has low cost components, researchers say

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) claim to have developed the first “practical, functional” liquid battery system, for use with renewable technology. The battery, which can store intermittent energy from wind and solar power, could make renewable energy more viable, the scientists say.

The technology uses high temperature batteries with liquid components, which naturally settle into distinct layers because of their different densities. The three molten materials form the positive and negative poles of the battery, as well as a layer of electrolyte in between. Crucially, all three layers are composed of materials that are “abundant and inexpensive”, MIT said.

The team has been working for three years on the project, gradually scaling up the batteries to six inch-wide cells, with 200 times the power storage capacity of previous versions.

Donald Sadoway, a researcher on the project, said: "If this technology succeeds it could be a game changer for renewable energy."

Sadoway and his team are now working to optimise the system, including finding ways of reducing the operating temperature to cut energy costs. They are also working with a liquid metal battery company to help bring the technology to commercialisation.