A Game Changer In Lithium Battery Technology

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John Goodenough, a professor of Engineering at the University of Texas, Austin and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, recently led a team of engineers to develop the first all-solid-state battery cells. Through their efforts, they were able to create battery cells that are not only safer, but feature superior charging and battery longevity.

In collaboration with Cockrell School’s senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, Goodenough’s latest breakthrough features noncombustible compounds, has an extended battery cycle life, and higher energy density – all with a cost effective price tag.
Details of their research can be found published in the journal of Energy &
Environmental Science.

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In Goodenough’s words, “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,”

To be more specific, the engineers have demonstrated the capacity of their new battery cells to possess at minimum, three times the energy density that lithium-ion batteries are capable of today. As the battery cell’s energy density is what determines the driving range of electric vehicles, higher energy density means that cars will be capable of driving longer distances between charges. Additionally, the new solid-state-battery not only allow for superior charging speeds, but a greater number of charging and discharging cycles also suggest that the battery will persist through the years.

In order to transport lithium ions between the cathode (positive) and anode (negative) ends of a battery, liquid electrolytes are used in today’s lithium-ion batteries. In this
combination, battery cells are susceptible to dendrite (metal branches) formation that can penetrate the liquid electrolytes and lead to combustion (think Samsung Galaxy Note 7).
Rather, the new all-solid-state innovation relies on glass electrolytes that allow the use of alkali-metal anodes without risk of dendrite formation. When observed with data that show more than 1,200 cycles of charging and discharging, it can be inferred that the
addition of alkali metal anodes not only increases the energy density of the cathode, but the longevity of the overall battery. Notably, this battery would work well in cars, as the high conductivity allows it to perform well in subzero temperatures.

Prior to her collaboration with Goodenough and researcher Andrew J. Murchison at UT Austin, Braga had already begun the development of solid-glass electrolytes with her colleagues at the University of Porto in Portugal. However, Braga praises Goodenough, as it was his deep understanding of the composition and properties of solid-glass
electrolytes that resulted in the new version currently patented through the UT
Austin Office of Technology Commercialization.
Braga also notes, “The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium. Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available,” which means that the battery is made from environmentally friendly substances.

Working on several patents, Goodenough and Braga are both continuing their research in battery related fields. Additionally, they hope to work with battery makers in order to
develop and test their new materials in vehicles and energy storage devices.

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