Gates-backed Liquid Metal Battery hires CEO

Liquid Metal Battery, which aims to build a cheap battery for bulk storage of wind and solar power, hires its first chief executive and plans to raise more money.

This model of a prototype shows the makings of an all-liquid battery cell. The bottom red layer is the heavy liquid metal cathode, the yellow is the molten salt electrolyte, and the green above is the less dense anode. The container is surrounded by an insulator material. Martin LaMonica/CNET

Liquid Metal Battery, a company formed to make cheap storage for wind and solar power, has hired its first CEO.

Phil Giudice, who was the third employee of demand-response company EnerNoc and the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources Commissioner until earlier the year, announced his "new gig" on Twitter. One of his tasks as CEO is to raise more money to build up the company, he told The Boston Globe.

Liquid Metal Battery was spun out of the lab of Donald Sadoway, a professor of materials chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Funding for the company has come from France-based oil giant Total and software tycoon Bill Gates, who took an interest in the technology after watching Sadoway's lectures online. Sadoway's lab has also received funding from the Department of Energy's ARPA-E research program.

Liquid Metal Battery is taking a radically different approach from lithium ion or other conventional batteries in pursuit of a low-cost system for storing many hours of renewable energy.

The active components in the battery--the anode, the cathode, and electrolyte--are liquid metal alloys, an approach that promises to make the batteries durable for many years. To get to a liquid state, the metals will be held at high temperatures between 400 degrees and 700 degrees Celsius. Its first prototype system is about the size of four pizza boxes, is using abundant salts, and is expected to use metals such as antimony and magnesium. Rather than string thousands of small battery cells together, the company's storage systems will be much larger and able to reduce the number of cells by 50 to 100 times, according to Sadoway.

Using manufacturing techniques similar to aluminum smelting, the company's goal is to make the batteries cheap enough to be used with renewable-energy systems. Executives have said the goal is to get in the range of $250 per kilowatt-hour, which is substantially less than half the price of today's lithium ion batteries.

Updated at 3:50 p.m. PT with correction regarding funding.

 

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