Economy In Gear

Inventor of lithium-ion battery introduces safer, faster-charging alternative

John Goodenough, a 94-year-old professor, says his new battery can charge faster than current lithium-ion designs, and is noncombustible.

A 2013 photo provided by the Japan Transport Safety Board shows frayed and broken earthing wire from the overheated All Nippon Airways' Boeing 787 lithium-ion battery.
Japan Transport Safety Board/AP/File

Lithium-ion battery-cell chemistry is currently dominant in electric cars, not to mention consumer electronics and other fields.

But what seems to be an army of researchers thinks it can be improved.

That includes one of the people who helped create lithium-ion batteries in the first place.

John Goodenough, a 94-year-old professor at the University of Texas Austin's Cockrell School of Engineering—and the co-inventor of the lithium-ion cell—recently led a team that developed what is purported to be a better alternative.

As discussed in a paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science (via Scientific American), Goodenough and his colleagues claim their new battery can charge faster than current lithium-ion designs, and is noncombustible.

The latter quality is due to the battery's solid-state design, which replaces the flammable liquid electrolyte used in current lithium-ion battery cells with a solid material.

In this case, the solid electrolyte material is glass, which researchers believe would lower the cost of any commercialized battery based on their design.

That's because it would allow for the use of cheaper sodium, extracted from seawater, for the electrolyte rather than the lithium used in other solid-state batteries.

The researchers also claim better performance than current lithium-ion cells.

They say the glass-electrolyte solid-state battery can charge and discharge faster, and will have a longer lifespan than batteries with lithium-ion chemistry.

The experimental battery is also three times more energy dense, according to the researchers.

Energy density represents the amount of energy that can be stored in a given volume.

Greater energy density is desirable because it allows for increases in range without increasing the storage volume needed.

As with all research, it's worth noting that a technology that looks promising in the lab, may not necessarily be commercially viable.

Even if it is, the transition from research project to consumer product can take years.

Some companies already market solid-state batteries, albeit of somewhat different designs to one proposed by Goodenough and his colleagues.

Solid state cells are used in the BlueCar electric cars deployed by French firm Bolloré in car-sharing services in the U.S. and Europe.

QuantumScape and Sakti3 have also sought to commercialize solid-state batteries.

Sakti3 was purchased by Dyson, the U.K. company famous for its bag-less vacuum cleaners, in 2015 for $90 million.

This story originally appeared on GreenCarReports.

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