Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery for grid-level energy storage

Abstract

The ability to store energy on the electric grid would greatly improve its efficiency and reliability while enabling the integration of intermittent renewable energy technologies (such as wind and solar) into baseload supply1,2,3,4. Batteries have long been considered strong candidate solutions owing to their small spatial footprint, mechanical simplicity and flexibility in siting. However, the barrier to widespread adoption of batteries is their high cost. Here we describe a lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery that potentially meets the performance specifications for stationary energy storage applications. This Li||Sb–Pb battery comprises a liquid lithium negative electrode, a molten salt electrolyte, and a liquid antimony–lead alloy positive electrode, which self-segregate by density into three distinct layers owing to the immiscibility of the contiguous salt and metal phases. The all-liquid construction confers the advantages of higher current density, longer cycle life and simpler manufacturing of large-scale storage systems (because no membranes or separators are involved) relative to those of conventional batteries5,6. At charge–discharge current densities of 275 milliamperes per square centimetre, the cells cycled at 450 degrees Celsius with 98 per cent Coulombic efficiency and 73 per cent round-trip energy efficiency. To provide evidence of their high power capability, the cells were discharged and charged at current densities as high as 1,000 milliamperes per square centimetre. Measured capacity loss after operation for 1,800 hours (more than 450 charge–discharge cycles at 100 per cent depth of discharge) projects retention of over 85 per cent of initial capacity after ten years of daily cycling. Our results demonstrate that alloying a high-melting-point, high-voltage metal (antimony) with a low-melting-point, low-cost metal (lead) advantageously decreases the operating temperature while maintaining a high cell voltage. Apart from the fact that this finding puts us on a desirable cost trajectory, this approach may well be more broadly applicable to other battery chemistries.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Electromotive force of Li–Sb–Pb electrodes measured by coulometric titration at 450 °C.
Figure 2: Performance of a Li||Sb–Pb cell cycled at 275 mA cm−2.
Figure 3: Voltage profiles during charge–discharge at different current densities (100–1,000 mA cm−2) of a Li||Sb–Pb cell.
Figure 4: Performance of a Li||Sb–Pb cell cycled at 275 mA cm−2.

References

  1. 1

    Soloveichik, G. L. Battery technologies for large-scale stationary energy storage. Annu. Rev. Chem. Biomol. Eng. 2, 503–527 (2011)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Dunn, B., Kamath, H. & Tarascon, J.-M. Electrical energy storage for the grid: a battery of choices. Science 334, 928–935 (2011)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Yang, Z. et al. Electrochemical energy storage for green grid. Chem. Rev. 111, 3577–3613 (2011)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Barnhart, C. J. & Benson, S. M. On the importance of reducing the energetic and material demands of electrical energy storage. Energy Environ. Sci. 6, 1083–1092 (2013)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Kim, H. et al. Liquid metal batteries: past, present, and future. Chem. Rev. 113, 2075–2099 (2013)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Bradwell, D. J., Kim, H., Sirk, A. H. C. & Sadoway, D. R. Magnesium-antimony liquid metal battery for stationary energy storage. J. Am. Chem. Soc. 134, 1895–1897 (2012)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Weppner, W. & Huggins, R. A. Thermodynamic properties of the intermetallic systems lithium-antimony and lithium-bismuth. J. Electrochem. Soc. 125, 7–14 (1978)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Cairns, E. J. et al. Galvanic Cells with Fused-Salt Electrolytes. Tech. Report ANL-7316 (Argonne National Laboratory, 1967)

  9. 9

    Eckert, C. A., Irwin, R. B. & Smith, J. S. Thermodynamic activity of magnesium in several highly-solvating liquid alloys. Metall. Trans. B 14, 451–458 (1983)

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Morachevskii, A. G., Bochagina, E. V. & Bykova, M. A. Thermodynamic properties of bismuth-sodium-antimony liquid alloys. Zh. Prikl. Khim. 73, 1620–1624 (2011)

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Ohtani, H., Okuda, K. & Ishida, K. Thermodynamic study of phase equilibria in the Pb-Sn-Sb System. J. Phase Equilibria 16, 416–429 (1995)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Morachevskii, A. G. Thermodynamic analysis of alloys of the lithium-antimony system. Zh. Prikl. Khim. 75, 367–369 (2002)

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Gasior, W. & Moser, Z. Thermodynamic study of lithium-lead alloys using the EMF method. J. Nucl. Mater. 294, 77–83 (2001)

    CAS  ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Dworkin, A. S., Bronstein, H. R. & Bredig, M. A. Miscibility of metals with salts. VI. Lithium-lithium halide systems. J. Phys. Chem. 66, 572–573 (1962)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Kanevskii, L. S. & Dubasova, V. S. Degradation of lithium-ion batteries and how to fight it: a review. Russ. J. Electrochem. 41, 1–16 (2005); Elektrokhimiya. 41, 3–19 (2005)

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge financial support from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (US Department of Energy) and Total SA.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

K.W. and K.J. contributed equally to this work. K.W. and K.J. conducted equilibrium voltage measurements. K.W., K.J., T.O., D.J.B. and U.M. performed small-scale cell testing. B.C. and P.J.B. performed cell testing at engineering scale. D.R.S., D.A.B. and H.K. had the idea for the project. K.W., K.J., B.C., T.O. and D.R.S. drafted the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Donald R. Sadoway.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

D.J.B. and D.R.S. are co-founders of Ambri, a company established to commercialize the liquid metal battery. D.J.B. is now Chief Technology Officer at Ambri. His contributions to this article were made while he was still a student at MIT pursuing his PhD and subsequently a postdoctoral associate for a short period of time. D.R.S.’s role with the company is advisory; he is formally the Chief Scientific Advisor and is a member of the Board of Directors.

Extended data figures and tables

Extended Data Figure 1 Cell schematic of Li||Sb–Pb liquid metal battery.

The negative current collector consists of a stainless steel rod and Fe–Ni foam. The positive current collector is made of graphite (small cell; 3.16 cm2 active area) or 304 stainless steel (large cell; 62 cm2 active area). Current collectors are electrically isolated by means of an alumina insulator.

Extended Data Table 1 Cost calculation of Mg||Sb 2.5 Ah cell
Extended Data Table 2 Cost calculation of Li||Sb-Pb 1.9 Ah cell
Extended Data Table 3 Cost calculation of Li||Sb-Pb 62 Ah cell

PowerPoint slides

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wang, K., Jiang, K., Chung, B. et al. Lithium–antimony–lead liquid metal battery for grid-level energy storage. Nature 514, 348–350 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13700

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing