Liquid Metal has gradually scaled up its technology. Shown here are several cells, ranging from a one-inch-wide cell to the company’s largest, a 40-centimeter cell (the circular plate with three holes in it). Within each cell, two metals serve as electrode materials and one salt electrolyte. The metals are heated until they melt (hence the name Liquid Metal) and then naturally segregate, forming the three distinct layers needed for the battery to operate.
Liquid Metal Battery Corporation is developing cheap, high-power, and high-capacity batteries to smooth out fluctuations on the power grid. This could help prevent blackouts, and allow the use of more intermittent sources of electricity such as solar and wind power.
The company’s headquarters, in the basement of an office building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, used to be occupied by a secretive military contractor. Now half of the space has the air of a startup—new furniture, bright walls, and a glass-enclosed conference room. The other half looks like a machine shop, where the researchers work to make the designs simple enough to be manufactured cheaply with standard equipment.