Still Current. At 94, Inventing the Better Battery

April 8, 2017


Check the actuarial tables.

A lot of us are going to get old. Real old.
No sense in wasting it.

Better battery storage is of course, the rapidly emerging key that is powering the Renewable Revolution.  A  94 year old physicist just kicked it up several notches.

New York Times:

In 1946, a 23-year-old Army veteran named John Goodenough headed to the University of Chicago with a dream of studying physics. When he arrived, a professor warned him that he was already too old to succeed in the field.

Recently, Dr. Goodenough recounted that story for me and then laughed uproariously. He ignored the professor’s advice and today, at 94, has just set the tech industry abuzz with his blazing creativity. He and his team at the University of Texas at Austin filed a patent application on a new kind of battery that, if it works as promised, would be so cheap, lightweight and safethat it would revolutionize electric cars and kill off petroleum-fueled vehicles. His announcement has caused a stir, in part, because Dr. Goodenough has done it before. In 1980, at age 57, he coinvented the lithium-ion battery that shrank power into a tiny package.

University of Texas:

AUSTIN, Texas — A team of engineers led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.

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. The engineers describe their new technology in a recent paper published in the journal Energy & Environmental Science.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted. We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said.

The researchers demonstrated that their new battery cells have at least three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries. A battery cell’s energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges. The UT Austin battery formulation also allows for a greater number of charging and discharging cycles, which equates to longer-lasting batteries, as well as a faster rate of recharge (minutes rather than hours).

New York Times again:

..there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that late blooming is no anomaly. A 2016 Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study found that inventors peak in their late 40s and tend to be highly productive in the last half of their careers. Similarly, professors at the Georgia Institute of Technology and Hitotsubashi University in Japan, who studied data about patent holders, foundthat, in the United States, the average inventor sends in his or her application to the patent office at age 47, and that the highest-value patents often come from the oldest inventors — those over the age of 55.

John P. Walsh, one of the professors, joked that the Patent Office should give a “senior discount” because “there’s clear evidence that people with seniority are making important contributions to invention.”

study of Nobel physics laureates found that, since the 1980s, they have made their discoveries, on average, at age 50. The study also found that the peak of creativity for Nobel winners is getting higher every year. For many years, oddsmakers have predicted that Dr. Goodenough would win the Nobel Prize, but so far the call from Stockholm has not come. You might call him the Susan Lucci of chemistry. If he finally does prevail, he could be the oldest person ever to receive the Nobel, and a harbinger.

University of Texas:

Today’s lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions between the anode (the negative side of the battery) and the cathode (the positive side of the battery). If a battery cell is charged too quickly, it can cause dendrites or “metal whiskers” to form and cross through the liquid electrolytes, causing a short circuit that can lead to explosions and fires. Instead of liquid electrolytes, the researchers rely on glass electrolytes that enable the use of an alkali-metal anode without the formation of dendrites.

The use of an alkali-metal anode (lithium, sodium or potassium) — which isn’t possible with conventional batteries — increases the energy density of a cathode and delivers a long cycle life. In experiments, the researchers’ cells have demonstrated more than 1,200 cycles with low cell resistance.

Additionally, because the solid-glass electrolytes can operate, or have high conductivity, at -20 degrees Celsius, this type of battery in a car could perform well in subzero degree weather. This is the first all-solid-state battery cell that can operate under 60 degree Celsius.


24 Responses to “Still Current. At 94, Inventing the Better Battery”

  1. mbrysonb Says:

    This ought to get the attention of the engineers and manufacturing experts — not to mention economists..

  2. […] fossil fuel becomes obsolete. And like the batteries, John Goodenough just keeps going. (Thanks to Climatecrocks for bringing this story to my […]

  3. This is amazing. It seems like something that could be the enabler of a rapid evolution away from fossil fuel driven transpo, which would certainly go a long way in reducing worldwide emissions.


  4. dumboldguy Says:

    Finally, something that appears to be the real deal, and not just some Solar Roadway money-raising scam or bright-sided wishful thinking. And cooked up by a 40-something woman from Portugal who was smart enough to bring it to a 94-year-old in the U.S. Fairy tales DO come true!

    It will now be fun to watch Musk as he watches his (yet to turn a profit) battery factory become obsolete. Oh, well—–he still has Mars.

    • MorinMoss Says:

      Battery announcements are always filled with hope and often point to a better way but actual commercialization is really, really difficult.
      Sumitomo’s promised low-temp molten-salt battery is now a couple years late and they’ve been vewwy, vewwy quiet since 2013.

      And we still use lead-acid & NiMH so don’t be too quick to kick proven tech to the curb

    • I somehow think Musk would not have got to where he is by ignoring advancements in technology.

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Yes indeed, Musk HAS gotten rich by paying attention to “advancements in technology” and attracting “investors”. Let’s hope that he is soon able to earn a profit on his ventures so that he doesn’t have to declare bankruptcy like Trump and screw all those who trusted in him..

        In addition to his Mars craziness, he is now working on a brain-computer interface plan that will allow him to raise even more $$$$. Sell your Solar Roadway stock, folks, and invest in Neuralink.

        • funslinger62 Says:

          “Mars craziness”?

          It’s almost always the extreme radicals, the “crazies”, who push society forward kicking and screaming.

          Musk’s push for Mars could very well make mining asteroids and meteors for resources a practical endeavor.

          • dumboldguy Says:

            Yes, Mars craziness, and you need to stop reading and believing sci-fi written for 12 year-olds. At its nearest, the asteroid belt is 100 to 200 million miles from earth, and any materials mined there can be obtained far more readily and cheaply on Earth. And I think you meant to say comet rather than meteor, since no one has figured out how to “grab” an object traveling at 25,000 to 160,000 mph, especially since they are small and undetectable until they hit the atmosphere and start to burn up.

            The only kind of mining that Musk’s “push for Mars” will produce is the mining of the taxpayer’s dollar for private profit and mining the pockets of the same gullible fools that thought Solar Roadway would ever become a “practical endeavor”.

    • Glenn Martin Says:

      Musk has a ready-made market for his product which he can sell cheaper than the competition. It will still take a year or two to perfect this new battery and then develop economic production methods. There’s nothing preventing Musk from licensing this for his powerwall and electric cars which will make them better, cheaper and more competitive.

  5. vierotchka Says:

    That’s fantastic!

    The professor obviously is much more than just good enough!

  6. Tom Bates Says:

    If you read the actual story instead of this hype, the team which he heads have come up with half the battery, they are still working on the cathode. Half a battery is better than none but nothing will work until they have an actual working prototype.

  7. redskylite Says:

    Nearly every week there is news of improvements in nearly all aspects of renewable energy, it is a mark of the effort being put into it and it is heartening use. Great that at 94 years old you can still contribute.

    Good news from the U.N renewables up and coming.

    “The world added record levels of renewable energy capacity in 2016, according to the UN.

    But the bill was almost a quarter lower than the previous year, thanks to the plunging cost of renewables.

    Investment in renewables capacity was roughly double that in fossil fuels, says the report from UN Environment.

    It follows news that the cost of offshore wind power has fallen by around a third since 2012 – far faster than expected.

  8. redskylite Says:

    And down under at last a builder is including some decent technology in new buildings – hope it catches on across the pond. Tesla will also begin producing it’s new solar roofing materials very shortly. Look forward to seeing new housing adopting this technology. Look forward to a real paradigm shift.

    “An Australian home builder has announced plans to include a Tesla Powerwall in all new homes. Arden Homes says they will outfit all their new homes with the energy storage technology through a partnership with solar energy company and certified Tesla Powerwall reseller Bradford Solar.”

  9. redskylite Says:

    And while everyone is moaning about Trump the rest of the world is getting on with it.

  10. Gingerbaker Says:

    Well, I like the “Current” joke in the title, but this “breakthrough” sure seems like the million “breakthroughs” before it – exciting, important and won’t mean a thing unless and until it actually comes to market at the proper price.

    Not holding my breath.

Leave a Reply to dumboldguy Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: