Ambri Adds $35M From Gates, Khosla, KLP Enterprises

4/30/14Follow @gthuang

Cleantech seems to be coming back in New England. Or, more likely, it never really left.

Today an MIT startup called Ambri (formerly known as Liquid Metal Battery) says it has raised a $35 million Series C funding round from new investor KLP Enterprises, as well as previous investors including Khosla Ventures, Bill Gates, and Total Energy Ventures. Ambri has raised more than $50 million in equity financing to date.

The Cambridge, MA-based company is developing grid-scale energy storage. Renewable sources like wind and solar have the longstanding problem of needing efficient storage systems to make them a viable alternative to traditional power plants and distribution systems.

Ambri opened a prototype manufacturing facility in Marlborough, MA, last fall. The company says it has been awarded contracts to deploy its technology in Massachusetts, Hawaii, New York, and Alaska. Its partners include First Wind, Joint Base Cape Cod, Con Edison, Energy Excelerator, Alaska Center for Energy and Power, and Raytheon.

The startup’s technology came out of professor Donald Sadoway’s lab at MIT. The basic idea was to invent a new kind of battery specifically for grid-scale energy storage, using liquid metals (and the science of aluminum smelters). The upshot: cheaper manufacturing, because the layers of the liquid metal battery are apparently able to arrange themselves instead of requiring a lot of engineering.

Still, building a better battery is a tough technical problem—and an even tougher business. Just ask A123 Systems, Boston-Power, or any number of energy-storage companies.

Ambri’s big-name investors and team will help on that front. The four-year-old startup is led by CEO Phil Giudice, who previously helped take EnerNOC public and also worked in the energy sector for the state of Massachusetts.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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