In the conversation about using solar or wind energy on a large scale the same issue always crops up, and that is storage. How do you use the sun’s energy when it isn’t shining? Or the wind when it is still? The answer is battery storage; which when you are speaking on the small scale of a car, or cell phone, or other device the common lithium ion battery is acceptable. But when it comes to whole neighbourhoods a lithium ion battery will need replacing every three to five years, is prohibitively expensive, and they are prone to overheating which can occasionally lead to fires or explosions. The person who solves that problem will quite probably make a fortune, but could also change the future.
That is where Donald Sadoway comes into the picture; the Toronto born scientist is the current John F. Elliott Professor of Materials Chemistry at MIT, and he has been tackling this problem of storage with a different tactic than most (including Elon Musk) because instead of trying to make the battery better, he wants to make a better battery.
Why is all of this necessary for Solar and Wind power? Why is storage the key? Because electricity is a use-it-or-lose it resource; as Donald Sadoway explains in his TED talk from March of 2012.
The Missing Link To Renewable Energy
By: Donald Sadoway
In 2012 he was recognized by TIME magazine as one of the Top 100 most influential people, he was on The Colbert Report, and was recognized by Bill Gates publicly, and invested in privately. That was not where it all began, though. It is a project that has been more than a decade in the making, and with his development company Ambri, they have a battery currently being tested and re-tested for durability. Though it might have been Professor Sadoway’s brain child, over at Ambri, the chief technology officer is one of Sadoway’s former students, David Bradwell, who, as it turns out, also grew up in Toronto. He graduated from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., before moving to MIT, where he helped finesse Sadoway’s battery idea and is now listed as its co-inventor. So in truth it is a pair of Canadians who say they are possibly as close as three years away from having a battery that is capable of storing power for an entire grid and possibly capable of being up-scaled to handle even greater loads.
That is how close they are now to being able to bring this product out. An affordable, scalable, long lasting battery that could power neighbourhoods or more could be on the market within three years.
That is a game changer.
Story from CBC.
Image from MIT.edu