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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is working to solve one of the biggest problems associated with alternative energy: storing it. And it's got the attention of French oil giant Total SA. Because the wind doesn't always blow, the seas are sometimes calm and the sun doesn't always shine, researchers have been focusing on how to store electricity generated by wind, water and solar farms.
And now M.I.T. Professor Donald Sadoway may have made a massive breakthrough. He scrapped the concept of the battery and started fresh. This new battery is in liquid form. Its prospects are huge for grid-level storage -- so much so, Total is spending $4 million over five years on an M.I.T. joint venture.
The commercial possibilities are big enough that Sadoway won't say what the low cost, widely available liquid metal is. But the economies of scale are such that the M.I.T. big brain is boasting this could make blackouts a thing of the past.
If successful, it would be a massive boon to the aluminum industry. Smelters require large amounts of consistent electricity -- and often are located in remote regions with poor infrastructure.
M.I.T. is also looking at the possibility of thinking small: giving individual homes the ability to be off-the-grid regardless of the weather.
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