Technology

May 1, 2017

The batteries of the future are here

With and age of 94 years old we would expect that John Goodenough would slow his rhythm, yet the inventor of the Lithium-ion batteries that have allowed us to increase the longevity of our cellular phone use and the development of electrical vehicles does not rest and has invented a new battery with triple energy storage capacity of its previous invention and, unlike it, this one can be recharged on a matter of minutes! 

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Goodenough is a professor and a researcher currently on the city of Austin, more precisely at the Cockrell School of Engineering, University of Texas, where he leads a team of engineers that announced, on February, they had created the first solid state cell battery which, besides storing the triple of the energy of the Lithium-ion versions, was also safer, more durable, cheaper to produce and, pardon our insistence, takes only minutes to recharge and can be used on cell phones, electric cars, lap tops, electric bikes or just as power storage units.

The invention of the Lithium-ion batteries dates from the 1980's, when John Goodenough was then in charge the Inorganic Chemistry Lab of the University of Oxford, where he developed the rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries that would be commercialized by Sony. These new batteries that he made public just a few months ago, are yet to be commercially licensed given that the University of Texas is still open to proposals from interested parties.

The inventor is extremely excited with the new invention, supporting the opinion that inevitably it will benefit the automobile, computing and communication industries with benefits for the environment, given that "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", claims Goodenough.

Since the quantity of kilometres that an electric car can do is connected to the energetic density of its batteries, a battery with the triple of the capacity will allow far longer dislocations between recharges and, unlike what happens now with the need for electric cars to recharge its batteries during hours (usually the whole night while its drivers are asleep) and are almost exclusive of the urban environment, these new batteries will allow to use them on long dislocations since we they can be recharged on minutes instead of hours.

The Lithium-ion batteries, although relatively safe, still have the handicap of including liquid electrolytes which, although in rare, but highly mediatized cases, can sometimes cause short circuit which can result on explosions and fires.

The new batteries use solid glass electrolytes instead, thus rendering it immune to this sort of malfunction and also making it possible for it to be used under very low temperatures, functioning under negative temperatures, more precisely up to -60 degrees Celsius.

This breakthrough was possible thanks to the inclusion of Maria Helena Braga (University of Oporto) and Andrew T. Murchison (University of Texas) on Goodenough's team back on 2015. The three scientists managed to create a new version of electrolytes that has since been patented by the University of Texas and was used on the creation of these new batteries. 

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