Like Thomas Edison, John Goodenough is a life-long learner, and also like Edison, Goodenough is seeking to improve what he has already made.
You see, John Goodenough is the fellow who long ago co-invented lithium-ion storage batteries, those little fellows that now power electric vehicles and many of our hand-held and other devices. Now at age 94, John has another idea to make his batteries even better; and people in the know are listening. He wants to create an electrolyte matrix of glass, doped with alkali metals, like lithium and sodium.
The lithium- or sodium-doped glass electrolyte offers a new medium for novel battery chemistry and physics. The lithium- or sodium-glass battery has three times the energy storage capacity of a comparable lithium-ion battery. But its electrolyte is neither flammable nor volatile, and it doesn’t appear prone to internally shorting out [spiky “dendrites”]; that have plagued lithium-ions as they charge and discharge repeatedly. This could prevent the battery fires we have seen recently with consumer appliances that run on lithium-ion batteries.
The solid glass electrolyte would act more like a super capacitor. And if sodium can be used in place of lithium, that means a more abundant and less expensive source of raw material. Hey … you Tesla lithium-ion battery folks … you listening to this?
Edison’s work with his legendary nickel-iron storage batteries at the turn of the last century began the story of alkali storage battery technology. These batteries became the gold standard for electric storage in a wide variety of industries, including electric vehicles. Manufacturers still make nickel-iron storage batteries today.