The 94-year-old creator of the lithium-ion battery has invented another breakthrough storage device that’s capturing the attention of industry heavyweights.
“John Goodenough, inventor of the lithium battery, has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells,” said Alphabet’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt via Twitter on Tuesday. Goodenough’s claim that his new battery cells have three times as much energy density as today’s lithium-ion batteries is “promising,” according to Google’s former CEO.
A new and more powerful generation of batteries may be made entirely from glass, according to the conclusions of Goodenough and his team of researchers published by the UK Royal Society of Chemistry. They store and transmit energy at temperatures lower than traditional lithium-ion packs and can be made using globally abundant supplies of sodium.
The research could result in “a safe, low-cost, all-solid-state cell with a huge capacity giving a large energy density and a long cycle life suitable for powering an all-electric road vehicle or for storing electric power from wind or solar energy,” the researchers wrote in the peer-reviewed journal Energy & Environmental Science.
Energy storage is seen as the missing link in the world’s transition to a zero-carbon economy. Batteries can fill power gaps from intermittent solar and wind energy. Companies including Tesla and Volkswagen have set their sights on lithium-ion to usher in a new generation of plug-in vehicles.
The research conducted by Goodenough and his team, who worked from the University of Texas at Austin as well as at the University of Porto in Portugal, was driven by the “urgent” need to reduce fossil fuel consumption and combat climate change.
The researchers are working on several patents and are seeking to collaborate with battery makers “to develop and test their new materials in electric vehicles and energy storage devices”, according to a statement by the University of Texas.
“The road from the lab to the factory is a long one,” said Julia Attwood, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Some technologies encounter significant difficulties when they attempt to scale up. It could be a while before we’re seeing these materials in electric vehicles or stationary storage.”
It took Goodenough about 11 years to see his lithium-ion breakthroughs commercialised by Sony in 1991, according to a 2015 profile published by Quartz. The scientist began focusing on storage technologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 1970s as a potential way of resolving the persistent oil crisis of the era, according to the article.
“We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today’s batteries,” Goodenough said in a statement. “Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted.”