The co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, 94-year-old John Goodenough of the University of Texas at Austin, is at the centre of an effort to develop the world’s first all-solid-state battery cells based on glass electrolytes.
“Goodenough’s latest breakthrough, completed with Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, is a low-cost, all-solid-state battery that is noncombustible and has a long cycle life (battery life), with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge,” Cleantech Concepts reports, citing a recent paper in the journal Energy & Environmental Science. The project “could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars, and stationary energy storage.”
“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge, and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted,” Goodenough said. “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries.”
With three times the energy density of today’s lithium-ion batteries, the new design would increase an electric vehicle’s driving range between charges. It also holds out the possibility of longer-lasting batteries with recharge rates measured in minutes, rather than hours, made from common materials rather than relatively scarce lithium.
“The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium,” Braga explained. “Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available.”
Quartz reports that other leading battery researchers are questioning Goodenough’s and Braga’s claims. “For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible. The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half.”
While the battery research community is showing respect for the result because of the source, “no one outside of Goodenough’s own group appears to understand his new concept,” notes correspondent Steve LeVine. “If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it’s hard to find a polite word,” said Princeton University materials science engineer Daniel Steingart.
(Reuben Brasloff, this one’s for you!)