This New ‘Perfect’ Battery Has Experts Stumped


The Lithium ion battery has made our modern
phones, laptops, and electric cars possible. The secret is its ability to cram a lot of
power into a tiny package, but for its inventor John B Goodenough, that wasn’t good enough. Nearly 40 years after he helped create a battery
that would change the world, Goodenough and researchers at the University of Texas at
Austin have announced they’ve invented a new battery that sounds too good to be true. Goodenough has a few issues with his old lithium
ion battery. It’s still too weak, too expensive, and
has the pesky habit of exploding from time to time. If a battery is charged too quickly, lithium
tends to slowly build up through the liquid electrolyte in long thin whiskers called dendrites. If the dendrites get long enough to connect
the positive and negative electrodes of the battery, they can cause a short and you’ve
got a surprise fireworks show in your pants. So for the last few years Goodenough has wanted
to make a battery with a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid one. Two years ago he found the research of Portuguese
physicist Maria Helena Braga. Braga and a colleague had invented a glass
electrolyte, which means no dendrites, no shorts, no pants on fire. Braga and Goodenough have been working together
in Austin ever since and the new battery they’ve come up with is unlike anything anyone’s
seen before. Along with the new glass electrolyte, the
electrodes -that is the positive and negative ends of the battery- are something entirely
different. In a lithium ion battery the positive electrode
is made of a lithium metal oxide and the negative side is made of a porous carbon. When you charge it, lithium ions grab electrons
and move through the electrolyte to the carbon. When you discharge it, the lithium ions shuffle
back, but the electrons they had don’t make the return trip. They flow through your device instead, providing
power. But this new battery doesn’t rely on storing
ions in a lattice on one side, instead the metal from the negative side travels across
the electrolyte and coats the positive side, creating a thin layer on top. And that’s got some people scratching their
heads. According to our understanding of conventional
batteries, it’s important that the two electrodes are different materials, that’s where the
voltage comes from. Remember the old potato batteries you made
as a kid? Stick a piece of copper in one side, and zinc
in the other, and you’ve got a battery because electrons flow from the zinc to the copper
through your clock or GLaDOS or whatever. If you stuck zinc and zinc, or copper and
copper, nothing would happen. Likewise with this new battery, once the positive
side is coated with metal from the negative side, the voltage should drop to zero. So the fact that this battery even works is
confusing other top battery experts. It seems to be generating something from nothing,
which is a big no no according to the laws of thermodynamics. But according to Goodenough, it doesn’t
just work, it works spectacularly well. Compared to current batteries it can hold
3 to 10 times the charge, can be recharged in minutes instead of hours, has a lifespan
of over a thousand cycles, and doesn’t go boom in your back pocket. It can be cheaper to make since it works with
low cost sodium as well as lithium, and can operate in temperatures from -20 degrees celsius
up to 60 degrees. This is exactly the sort of battery that would
make an electric car a true replacement for a gasoline powered one. It’s the sort of thing that would be hailed
as a monumental achievement. Or a hoax. But it’s hard to argue with Goodenough’s
credibility, I mean, this is the guy who helped invent the modern lithium ion battery powered
world, he’s effectively the Li-ion King. His colleagues don’t believe he and Braga
are pulling a fast one, heck they’ve even applied for a patent. And I checked and the paper wasn’t published
on April 1st. So maybe this crazy battery works for some
other reason we have yet to figure out. Or maybe Goodenough’s explanation that the
plating is too thin to drop the voltage is correct. For something this promising with this kind
of name behind it, more research is definitely needed. So do you think the new battery is the real
deal or Goodenough is having one over on us? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget
to subscribe. All I know is a battery that lasts 3 times
longer and takes minutes to charge sounds amazing, but if I had practical wireless charging
I wouldn’t actually need it. Trace covers Disney’s latest crack at it
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