Foto: Programm Speicher und vernetzte Infrastrukturen ©Copyright: BengsElectrochemical Energy Storage

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Foto: The impact of the Tayler Instability on a new type of batteries made out of liquid metals ©Copyright: Dr. Tom WeierGermany is on the brink of the energy turnaround and, thus, the transformation of power generation from primarily fossil and nuclear sources to solely renewable energy sources in the future. Since the power being fed from photovoltaic systems and wind turbines actually depends on the environmental conditions and not the current demand, storage facilities – in addition to a number of other measures – are indispensable in order to balance supply and demand. These very large amounts of electricity require affordable storage units.

Liquid metal batteries might make a vital contribution towards solving the problem.

The entire contents of these high temperature systems are liquid. The different densities permit the electrodes, which consist of molten metals, and the molten salt, which serves as an electrolyte, to arrange themselves in layers entirely by themselves in such a way that a fully operational battery is created. This permits the construction of large electrochemical storage facilities at relatively low costs.

The strong current that flows through the batteries during charging and discharging can, however, put the liquid inside the batteries into motion which, in turn, could stir the formerly stable layers. Under adverse conditions, the electrodes get into direct contact with one another which results in battery failure. This needs to be avoided at all costs.

The research conducted at the HZDR is committed, above all, towards understanding and preventing such current-driven instabilities. That is why the scientists are investigating liquid metals and molten salts in their battery laboratory and why they perform extensive computational simulations. Since electrodynamics, fluid mechanics, and electrochemistry are closely interwined, the occurring phenomena are highly complex. These processes can only be understood and managed in an interdisciplinary approach.

Research activities on system integration, scale-up and on the operation of liquid metal batteries are performed within the joint initiative Energy System 2050, where a network of eight Helmholtz centers aims to improve the understanding of energy systems and develops technological solutions for use by politics and industry.


  • Measuring, simulating, and influencing flows in hot molten metals and salts
  • Understanding and managing current-driven instabilities
  • Contributing towards constructing large-scale liquid metal batteries


  • Weber, N.; Galindo, V.; Priede, J.
    The influence of current collectors on Tayler instability and electro-vortex flows in liquid metal batteries
    Physics of Fluids 27(2015), 014103
  • Weber, N.; Galindo, V.; Stefani, F.
    Current-driven flow instabilities in large-scale liquid metal batteries, and how to tame them
    Journal of Power Sources 265(2014), 166-173
  • Weber, N.; Galindo, V.; Stefani, F.
    Numerical simulation of the Tayler instability in liquid metals
    New Journal of Physics 15(2013), 043034
  • Seilmayer, M.; Stefani, F.; Gundrum, T.
    Experimental evidence for a transient Tayler instability in a cylindrical liquid-metal column
    Physical Review Letters 108(2012)24, 244501

Involved HZDR institutes