Engineers in the US have invented a battery, made of three molten metals, which could help smooth the power supply from renewable energy sources.

The battery runs at 450C so its workings are impossible to photograph; this room-temperature mock-up uses mercury (bottom) and steel foam instead of hot, liquid metals

Published in the journal Nature, this latest attempt at a scalable solution for storing electricity is set for commercial demonstrations within a year and has been greeted with enthusiasm by engineers in the UK.

“Sometimes, when the wind is blowing strongly, we have spare capacity available – if only we could store it, so that we could use it when the wind isn’t blowing,” explained Prof Ian Fells, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and former chair of the New and Renewable Energy Centre.

“Using these molten metal electrodes is, it seems to me, a very good idea,” he told BBC News.

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