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MIT Professor Donald Sadoway wins the 2022 European Inventor Award

MIT Professor Donald Sadoway wins European Inventor Award 2022 with his liquid metal battery for storing renewable energy (Source: The European Patent Office)

The European Patent Office has announced that it has honored MIT chemistry professor Donald Sadoway with the 2022 European Inventor Award in the "Non-EPO countries" category.

He has developed batteries made of liquid metal that can be used to store renewable energy at scale, increasing the reliability of solar and wind power and enabling them to play a bigger role in electricity supply.

"By enabling the large-scale storage of renewable energy, Donald Sadoway's invention is a huge step towards the deployment of carbon-free electricity generation," says António Campinos, President of the European Patent Office.

"He has spent his career studying electrochemistry and has transformed this expertise into an invention that represents a huge step forward in the transition to green energy."

Sadoway was honored at the 2022 European Inventor Award ceremony. The Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes and is presented annually to outstanding inventors from Europe and beyond who have made an exceptional contribution to society, technological progress, and economic growth.

Working at the extreme

Sadoway's liquid metal batteries consist of three liquid layers of different densities, which naturally separate in the same way as oil and vinegar do in a salad dressing. The top and bottom layers are made from molten metals, with a middle layer of molten liquid salt. To keep the metals liquid, the batteries need to operate at extremely high temperatures, so Sadoway designed a system that is self-heating and insulated, requiring no external heating or cooling. They have a lifespan of more than 20 years, can maintain 99 percent of their capacity over 5,000 charging cycles, and have no combustible materials, meaning there is no fire risk.

In 2010, with a patent for his invention and support from Bill Gates, Sadoway co-founded an academic spin-off called Ambri, based in Marlborough just outside Boston, to develop a commercial product. The company will soon install a unit on a 3,700-acre development for a data center in Nevada. This battery will store energy from a reported 500 megawatts of on-site renewable generation, the same output as a natural gas power plant. 

Author : Debi Dash
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