Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor Introduces new production technology

A team of engineers from the Cockrell School of Engineering in Texas, U.S.A. has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries. These batteries are, above all, much safer in use because of their non-combustibillity.

The team is led by 94-year old co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery; Professor John Goodenough.
Goodenough’s latest breakthrough is a all-solid-state battery that has a long expected cycle life with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge.

“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 research behind the battery shows that the 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. This innovation can be used in fields much wider than the car-industry. It could possibly mean we will charge our smartphones in minutes rather than hours.

Today’s lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions between the anode and the cathode. 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) 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.

Braga began developing solid-glass electrolytes with colleagues while she was at the University of Porto in Portugal. About two years ago, she began collaborating with Goodenough and researcher Andrew J. Murchison at UT Austin. Braga said that Goodenough brought an understanding of the composition and properties of the solid-glass electrolytes that resulted in a new version of the electrolytes that is now patented through the UT Austin Office of Technology Commercialization. The engineers’ glass electrolytes allow them to plate and strip alkali metals on both the cathode and the anode side without dendrites, which simplifies battery cell fabrication.

Another advantage is that the battery cells can be made from earth-friendly materials. “The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium. Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available,” Braga said.

Goodenough and Braga are continuing to advance their battery-related research and are working on several patents. In the short term, they hope to work with battery makers to develop and test their new materials in electric vehicles and energy storage devices. This research is supported by UT Austin, but there are no grants associated with this work. The UT Austin Office of Technology Commercialization is actively negotiating license agreements with multiple companies engaged in a variety of battery-related industry segments.

source: Cockrell School of Engineering, The University of Texas at Austin

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