It’s been a while since we covered this story and I though it would be good to provide a quick update. Ambri has separated from MIT and embarked on their own ventures. Since the split they have made several improvements to their liquid metal battery(LMB).
Ambri is now in the market specifically to mitigate the negative effects of intermittent energy utilities that are well known to plague renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power generation. Quote: “Once commercial, Ambri looks forward to integrating all potential intermittent resources, reducing electricity costs by mitigating congestion and price volitilty, and lowering the amount of investment required in the entire grid value chain – from generation, to transmission and distribution infrastructure.”
Ambri has rolled out some new prototypes with impressive stats. Probably the most important one was the discovery that they could use much cheaper materials than the magnesium and antimony. They’ve upped the operating voltage, re-engineered the liquification cycle so that the battery heats up once energized, and more or less replaced the antimony with a much cheaper metal. With their current design, Ambri’s LMB cells can run over 1600 cycles at full depth of discharge with a negligible fade rate of less than .0002% per cycle! The cells used in these tests are still in operation.
The newly designed LMB’s are operated in a 36-cell (2 kWh) system currently under test in their Cambirdge lab. The unit first to be seen in production is called the Alpha Core and will pump out a whopping 20 kWh of electricity and should be deployed late 2014. Ambri has also officially opened a robotic manufacturing facility for their prototype Alpha Core in Marlborough, MA that will spit out a battery every three minutes. This will scale up of course once they go commercial. The facility will produce variants of the Alpha Core called Beta Cores that will output 17.5 kW and store 35 kWh. Targeted deployments will be in Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and Alaska intially but I’m sure will expand rapidly. Some initial customers and partners already in the pipline are JBCC, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, Mass Development, Raytheon, Energy Excelerator, HNEI, nyserda, conEdison, New York BES+, firstwind, ACEP, and Alaska Energy Authority. Looks like the initial interested parties are primarily in the renewable energy and defence department contractor sectors.
Ambri’s success is evident by their recent funding in April by KLP Enterprises and Building Insurance Bern (GVB). They recieved a $35 million Series C round of financing from these partners including others such as Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates and Total. Looks like they are on the road to success.
Updates sourced from Ambri’s new website: Ambri.com
<<< Original Story>>>
IEEE covered a story announcing a high density liquid metal battery that may prove beneficial in solving the renewable energy storage dilemma.
This story shows promise due to several factors. The MIT affiliated company Ambri has already built their production facility, the battery is cheap to manufacture, charge capacity does not decrease with each use, it’s designed to store large amounts of energy from high powered sources, and the energy density is quite impressive.
The battery is simple by design and is filled with two metals, antimony and magnesium, with a salt electrolyte. when energized, the metals and electrolyte liquefy and form in three distinct layers. The three layers act as an anode, cathode, with separator of liquid salt.
The kicker is that this battery operates at a high temperature of nearly 200 degrees Celsius. It requires these high temperatures to keep the contents in their liquid form. However, there is a brilliant aspect to this simple technology. Each cell is in the form of a box 10 cubic centimeters and can be chained together into a pack and stored in a tight space like a freight storage container. The current manufacturing plan is to build packs of 54 cells that fit into a freight storage container. This configuration will store 2000 kWh and be able to discharge at a rate of 500 kW for four hours. Ambri also has plans to build a smaller 16 cell pack that will store 500kWh with a discharge rate of 200kW.
This technology will allow for mass storage capability that will provide a solution for the unstable output of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar farms. Utilities may also benefit from this technology as well. Picture a very large backup battery that will be able to run key utilities such as water pumping stations, cellular networks, sewage processing plants, airports, etc… in the event they loose grid power.