Since the past decade, the introduction of liquid metal batteries was able to increase the amount of energy stored compared to the regular batteries’ capacity that had not witnessed much changing… until now. The original creator of the innovative liquid batteries professor Donald Sadoway from MIT has taken a new approach on his invention in order to make it not only more affordable for people, but also to improve the batteries’ power production.

The study’s focus was to determine whether the properties found in calcium could be harnessed in order to improve the batteries created by Sadoway at MIT over 10 years ago. Given that calcium can be used to enhance the energy capacity of a battery could lead Sadoway and his team of researchers to make the renewable energy more practical.

Photo credit: Yale Scientific
The original creator of the innovative liquid batteries professor Donald Sadoway from MIT has taken a new approach on his invention. Photo credit: Yale Scientific

Researchers suggest that even though calcium was an unexpected contestant to work in liquid metal batteries, it showed encouraging results. Properties of calcium were found to be suitable as its benefits include a natural high voltage as a negative electrode as well as offers a significant reducing in costs. The latest study led by MIT professor Sadoway reported their staggering findings in the journal Nature Communications early on Wednesday.

Although Sadoway led the study, he worked in collaboration with a talented research team including Takanari Ouchi PhD, Penn State University professor Hojong Kim and PhD student Brian Spatocco.

According to the report published by MIT researchers, the extremely difficult task to make calcium work with a complex device such as liquid metal batteries is what fascinated them to accomplish a practical solution.

Among the downsides found in calcium, researchers found that the element could easily dissolve when in contact with salt. This particular trait presented Sadoway and the team involved in the study with a major obstacle, as one of the liquid batteries’ crucial features is the three-way separation of its components.

The layers dividing the elements are based on materials with different densities, which keeps them separated, very much like water and grease repel each other. Another obstacle in the way of using calcium for liquid metal batteries’ development was the temperature problem, causing the batteries to operate at nearly 900 degrees Celsius.

Calcium dilemma unraveled

Sadoway claims that the idea of a battery operating at such high temperature levels is just ridiculous. Researchers were able to work out the problem by developing a combination of calcium and magnesium, which is considered a cheap metal, therefore addressing to the calcium’s melting point issue.

In order for researchers to solve the other drawbacks of using calcium, they developed a new salt formulation able to withstand the use of the element alloyed with magnesium in liquid metal batteries. The calcium, combined with a magnesium alloy prevented it from dissolving in the new salt mixture of lithium chloride and calcium chloride.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Energy and the French energy company Total S.A. fully supported the research conducted by Professor Sadoway from MIT.

The development of possible ways to harness calcium’s beneficial properties could lead future studies to improve renewal energy’s impact on everyday-use devices.

Source: ECN Mag