research at mit

GroupSadoway focuses to establish the scientific underpinnings for technologies that make efficient use of energy and natural resources in an environmentally sound manner. The overarching focus of the group’s work is electrochemistry in nonaqueous media.

The liquid metal battery project seeks to develop a low cost and long lifespan battery for grid-scale stationary energy storage. The battery utilizes three liquid layers as the electroactive components, including a liquid metal positive electrode, a fused salt electrolyte, and a liquid metal negative electrode. The three liquid layers float on top of one another due on their density differences and immiscibility, promising low assembly cost with use of inexpensive materials. Furthermore, liquid electrodes avoid common failure mechanisms of solid-state battery components, potentially enabling a long lifespan device. Current research efforts encompass a wide range of scientific topics and engineering challenges, including fundamental thermodynamic measurements of candidate electrode couples, computational thermal modeling, electrochemical studies of molten salt electrolytes, long term corrosion and lifespan testing, testing and characterization of complete single-cell batteries, and scaling up the design to build larger single-cells. The scale-up to commercial product is being pursued at Ambri  (formerly Liquid Metal Battery Corporation), a start-up company co-founded by Sadoway with two of his former students.

Green metal making by molten oxide electrolysis is another important project being conducted in Sadoway’s research group. Existing extraction and manufacturing processes have been developed at a time of limited awareness of resource scarcity and environmental impact. These two issues are encapsulated nowadays in the term sustainability, which encompasses a cost metric. Unfortunately, most of the easy problems affecting the production as well as environmental costs of metals extraction and manufacturing have been solved. As of today, it is of critical importance to develop innovative approaches to cope with both increasing materials needs and earth intrinsic limitations. The work in sustainable materials extraction and manufacturing process using molten salt electrolysis extends from campus to Boston Electrometallurgical Corporation (BEMC).