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Can Liquid Batteries Make Grid Scale Energy Storage Possible?

A battery is an electric device that consists of electrochemical cells a cathode, the positive terminal and an anode, which is the negative side, that changes or convert stored chemical energy into electrical energy. Grid energy storage is the method of holding electricity on a large scale within an electric grid. It’s a fact that electricity cannot be literally stored as it is in the case of the ordinary battery cells holding energy, therefore what the grid does is that it isolates or ‘hides away’ electricity and only releases it on demand.

Unlike the conventional battery, the key component of a liquid battery is the liquid with the other parts being two metal electrodes, which are in liquid form, sandwiching a molten-salt electrolyte. Then a negative electrode floats on top of the electrolyte while a dense positive electrode lies at the bottom. The composition difference between the two metals in liquid form results in a voltage being developed. The battery works at a temperature of hundreds of degrees therefore making its content to remain liquid in state.

The first proof of this battery was created using antimony and magnesium with a salt electrolyte by Professor Donald Sadoway and his then graduate student, David Bradwell. One of its advantages is that there is little capacity storage loss over time, which is an important consideration for entities that purchase equipment to last for very long periods of time. To add on that, its large scale design ensures that there are fewer wires and connections required, reducing the number of potential points of failure.

Essentially, this is how a liquid battery works: electricity can be stored when production level is much higher than consumption and the stored energy is released when consumption supersedes production. In this way, production of electricity does not need to be drastically scaled up and down to meet momentary consumption but instead it is maintained at a more stable level. The advantage here is that fuel based power plants can be more efficient and easily operated at constant production levels.

These liquid batteries can be used to harness and store the variable energies harnessed from intermittent energy sources such as photovoltaic and wind turbines since the energy obtained from these intermittent energy sources are dependent on nature; that is the amount of electrical energy produced varies with season, time of day, and other random factors including the weather. Can liquid batteries make bulk storage possible? Yes they can but the problem is, how well will they perform and what cost will they incur.

Keywords: precious metal,rare-earth element


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