Four years ago, President Obama invited John Goodenough to the White House, where he was awarded the National Medal of Science for being the co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery. Goodenough’s work on the major battery breakthrough was thirty years ago, but he hasn’t been content to rest on his laurels. Now, the 94-year-old scientist is debuting another new battery, with colleagues at the University of Texas.
According to research published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science, the team is capable of producing a safe, non-explosive cell that can power a car for much longer than current batteries. The charge time is also significantly reduced, from hours down to minutes.
The new technology uses a solid, glass electrolyte to carry the charge, avoiding the ‘leaking’ problem that lithium-ion formulations have. According to the research, the new cells have demonstrated more than 1,200 cycles, compared to the 500 cycles of standard batteries. The cells also don’t lose their maximum charge as much, and are less affected by hot and cold conditions.
With all the focus on battery research, many teams have claimed that their new discovery will change everything. However, the battery that replaces lithium-ion will need to be tough, safe and cheap, as well as more efficient.
“We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said. “Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life, are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted.” If their formulation proves viable, what was originally dreamed of for cars will also work for smaller machines like mowers, backpack blowers, tablets and cellphones.
Goodenough’s credentials are lending the team’s claim some weight. “He’s tops in the field and a really fantastic scientist,” Donald Sadoway, professor of materials science and engineering at MIT, told the journal. “When John Goodenough makes an announcement, I pay attention.”