Professor John B. Goodenough, apart from having an ironic name, is one of the great influential inventors of the 21st century and still an active researching member of the scientific community despite the fact that he is 94 years of age. Among his many notable awards and ground-breaking papers, the average consumer owes the man a tremendous debt for a singular invention, the Lithium-Ion battery. Yes, that very same battery that powers the majority of all rechargeable devices in the modern world. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, electric cars, nearly every portable device uses such a battery. Except now, Dr. Goodenough is about to set the standard again.
The concept was to create a solid state battery that was superior to the lithium-ion technology used currently without the detriments they currently face. “Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted.” Said Dr. Goodenough, “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,”
Dr. Goodenough worked on his new revelation at the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin along with senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga to create a battery that would circumvent the known issues with the lithium-ion battery. This included such things as the difficulties with low temperature, the inability to handle excessive recharges, and the explosions.
The idea is that the new battery uses glass electrolytes to conduct the charge from the positive to the negative electrode. As such when charged rapidly there is no risk that dendrites or “metal whiskers” as they are commonly known, forming and thus bridging across the electrolytes, resulting in an explosion.
In addition, the entire assembly of their proposed design is environmentally friendly “The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium. Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available,” Said Braga. Their results with this technology were released in a paper to the Journal of Energy and Environmental Science. In it they demonstrated that their battery could sustain more than 1,200 cycles without issue, possessed three times the energy density of a normal lithium-ion battery, and that it could operate at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Farenheight) and retain high conductivity.
The team hopes that their work helps set a new benchmark in battery development, outshining the incremental growth seen by the likes of Tesla. “You need something that will give you a little bit of a step,” he said in an interview with Clean Technica, “not an increment.”
Feature image courtesy of the National Science & Technology Medals Foundation