I'm always skeptical when I read a story about a promising new technology that might change the world, and this story on Treehugger, "Grid-Scale Metal Liquid Batteries Could Revolutionize Renewable Energy Use," is not necessarily an exception. Still, it's intriguing to think about the enormous possibilities if this were to come to pass.
...the first thing to note is that Professor Sadoway's grid-scale batteries were designed so cleverly! From the ground up, the goal was to make them dirt-cheap (literally!) and very safe and reliable, which is why they can operate comfortably at high temperatures (something that needs to be constantly cooled has more chances of failing if something unexpected happens). He didn't just try to stretch an existing design into something bigger, he created them to be grid-scale from the ground up. It's truly the kind of genius work that should be backed by massive resources, either from venture capitalists or the Department of Energy or whatever. The faster we can bring these to market, the faster we can ramp up intermittent renewable sources of energy way past the point at which they would start to screw up our current grid infrastructure. And we need all the carbon-free energy we can get, especially with China and India rapidly ramping up their coal usage.
One other reason I think this article is worth highlighting is that Donald Sadoway is a serious scientist: an MIT professor of materials chemistry, one of Time Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World," etc. So perhaps this time, a touted "breakthrough" will really be a breakthrough? Let's hope!