If you were asked, what technological advances are most needed in the world today. what would you say? This should be a technology that we can actually develop over the next ten years.
Nuclear fusion or less expensive, more safe and cleaner fission energy is a good choice. Economic fusion power will revolutionize human society, but it is certainly not the integration of a technology that can be commercialized in the next ten years. Many people are working to make nuclear fission safer and cheaper, but there are also many obstacles to overcome.
The electricity is produced on demand. There is no electricity warehouse to dip into. Although pumped hydroelectricity provides a special storage capacity, this technology is almost a century old and it can not meet our current needs. Lithium ion batteries are our best choice right now.
With the development of renewable energy, the challenge of preventing blackouts will only increase. Not only do we need a fast frequency response, we also need the load shifting.
In presence of renewable energy source, we must have enough storage space to charge the batteries in order to be used in the absence period of the renewable energy source.
Lithium-ion batteries are the cheapest batteries available right now, but when it comes down to it, they are not designed for this work. They are designed as lightweight, high-energy portable electronic devices, but their design is almost useless for stationary batteries.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently the cheapest type of energy storage available, because the mass use of lithium-ion batteries in the portable device market has allowed the economics of scale to reduce prices.
As they are charged and discharged, chemical reactions occur that damage the electrodes and reduce their ability to hold a charge, and many of the ways we need a load shifting battery to operate are the exact ways that accelerate this degradation over time. Taking a lithium ion battery from full to zero charge is particularly damaging.
Depending on the operating temperature of the LFP (Lithium FerroPhosphate) battery, the capacity is reduced to 85 to 95% after 3000 cycles. Higher temperatures lead to further capacity reduction.
However, it will cost close to the cost of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to Design a completely new battery type. Successful prototype design is one thing, but product design that can be produced cost-effectively and reliably is quite different.
No matter how cheap the electrode material is, the price of a new battery design will offset any cost savings until economies of scale take over.
This makes it difficult for new entrants to enter the market. If they can not compete directly with costs, it will be difficult for them to find a buyer. In order for new products of this kind to enter the market and be cost-effective, they often need to find a specific market whose benefits outweigh its costs.
So, where can liquid metal batteries find this niche market?
As we explained, lithium ion batteries are temperature sensitive. Without proper thermal management, lithium-ion batteries will not only degrade faster, but they can also fail or even catch fire. Such accident will shut off the whole battery storage facility.
Liquid metal batteries can operate normally in harsh conditions. The product is designed to work at a temperature of 500 degrees. No hot or cold environment will cause any obstacles in the operation of this type of battery.
This factor makes the battery more suitable for hot weather. In applications where the batteries must be operated in hot climates and used in deep cycles every day, liquid metal batteries may be able to justify the high initial cost to early offspring.
This is great for companies that want to use green energy to power their servers, as well as for companies that want to protect their data from possible power outages and even through network vulnerabilities that have increased over the past decade. It could be the missing link in global energy transformation to renewable sources.