Bill Gates-backed liquid metal battery startup raises $144m

August 11, 2021 // By Nick Flaherty
Bill Gates-backed liquid metal battery startup raises $144m
Ambri has raised $144m to commercialise its technology with manufacturing plants in the US and India .

A US liquid metal battery developer backed by Bill Gates has raised $144m to commercialise its technology with US and international manufacturing plants.

Ambri in Massachusetts develops long duration batteries based around a patented liquid calcium alloy anode, a molten salt electrolyte and a cathode comprised of solid particles of antimony.

The latest round of financing was led by strategic investors Reliance New Energy Solar, a wholly owned subsidiary of Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries with material supplier Paulson & Co and Ambri’s largest shareholder, Bill Gates. New investors include Fortistar, Goehring & Rozencwajg Associates, Japan Energy Fund and others. This bring the total raised to over $211m.

Each Ambri cell is comprised of a robust stainless-steel housing, a positively polarized case, and a negative terminal protruding from the centre of the lid. During transportation, cells are shipped at ambient temperature and are inactive; they have zero cell voltage and are unable to pass current, offering significant safety advantages during assembly and transportation. These are combied in a 10ft container with a voltage output from 500v to 1500V.

Once delivered on-site, heaters within the system bring the cells up to their operating temperature, which activates them and allows them to start storing or returning electrical energy. Although the system is expected to remain at operating temperature continuously for the life of the system, cells are designed to undergo dozens of thermal cycles, from room temperature to 500 °C, without impacting cell performance. Cells are also highly tolerant of over-charging or over-discharging, and are not subject to thermal runaway, electrolyte decomposition, or electrolyte off-gassing, each of which could lead to significant safety events with other cell chemistries.

The company already has a deal with NEC for telecoms power.

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“This financing supports the commercial growth of our company and technology,” said Dan Leff, Ambri Executive Chairman. “Further, these funds are instrumental to driving our efforts to scale the company’s operations and establish our manufacturing infrastructure to meet rapidly expanding customer demand. We are delighted that our newest shareholders, who are world class investors and strategic partners, are joining Ambri’s journey.”

Ambri will use the proceeds from this fund raise to design and construct high-volume manufacturing facilities in the US and internationally that will supply its long-duration battery systems to meet the growing demand from the grid-scale energy storage market and large industrial energy customers, such as data centres. 

Reliance New Energy Solar will be Ambri’s strategic partner to develop and manufacture Ambri’s batteries in India. Ambri has also entered into a long-term antimony supply agreement with Perpetua Resources, whose largest shareholder is Paulson & Co. Antimony is a key mineral in Ambri’s battery chemistry and this agreement would help secure a domestic source for its supply chain.

“Reliance Industries sees this strategic partnership with Ambri as an important step in its journey of achieving its decarbonization goals. Our investment in Ambri is part of our broader plan to develop the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex, which will be amongst the largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facilities in the world and the epicentre of India’s Green Economy movement,” said Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries Ltd.

“We’ve been looking for an opportunity to help finance important technologies for large scale utility grade battery storage systems,” said John Paulson. “Ambri’s novel battery technology is ready to deliver a low-cost, durable and safe battery for longer duration applications that will enable a stable grid that incorporates an increasing amount of intermittent renewable generation. Perpetua Resources, a natural resource company in Idaho, is also an ideal supply chain partner for Ambri, given that it has the largest domestic deposit of antimony, which is a key mineral in Ambri’s battery chemistry.”

“Our firm has been focused on emerging technologies that provide sustainability solutions now, and Ambri’s one-of-a-kind batteries fit the bill,” said Mark Comora, President of Fortistar. “This novel, low-cost technology will help integrate more wind and solar power into grids around the globe, especially in areas that are more remote, have been more reliant on fossil fuels, or experience extreme temperatures. This will help level the playing field when it comes to decarbonization efforts that are critical to tackling climate change, and we are proud to invest in a company that is delivering meaningful benefits with real financial value.”

Ambri says it is now able to scale for projects from 10 MWh to over 2 GWh around the globe. The company will manufacture the containerised systems that are more economical than lithium-ion batteries and can operate safely in any climatic condition without requiring supplemental air conditioning for over 20 years with minimal degradation.

Ambri systems are particularly suited for high-usage applications, such as shifting energy from daytime solar generation to evening and morning peak load times. The batteries are designed to last for durations ranging from 4 to 24 hours. The company is securing customers for large-scale projects with commercial operation from 2023.

www.ambri.com; www.ril.com

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