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Interviews: Ask Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John Goodenough a Question 145

John B. Goodenough is a solid-state physicist and professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at The University of Texas at Austin. While he is most famous for identifying and developing the lithium-ion battery, which can be found in just about every portable electronic device on the market, he has recently created a new fast charging solid-state battery that looks to revolutionize the industry. We sent him an email about doing an interview and he has responded. Now is your chance to ask Goodenough a question!

We'll pick the very best questions and forward them to John Goodenough himself. (Feel free to leave your suggestions for who Slashdot should interview next.) Go on, don't be shy!
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Interviews: Ask Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John Goodenough a Question

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    How do you respond to critics of the new battery technology? When can we expect to see them hit the street?

  • by hduff ( 570443 ) <hoytduff@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 27, 2017 @05:39PM (#54121905) Homepage Journal

    There are several innovative ideas for better batteries that never make it to market. The problem is that you can make a few by hand in the lab, but production of useful numbers does not scale well at all or it scales, but is horrible expensive.

    Will your development reasonably scale? If not, what stands in your way.

  • electrode material? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Razed By TV ( 730353 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @05:42PM (#54121937)
    There seems to be some confusion about whether or not your battery has the same material or differing material on the two electrodes. Can you elaborate on this and, if the electrodes are the same material, how the battery works?
  • Li-ion Battery Fires (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday March 27, 2017 @05:44PM (#54121959)

    Could you speculate on the reasons behind the increasing frequency of li-ion battery fires? Cheaper parts, smaller tolerances, higher energy density, or all of the above?

  • How sick are you of all the puns and jokes about your name?
    • The five stages of name-pun reaction:
      1) Amusement. This stage starts at age about 4 to 6, when the punee first gets the joke. It typically lasts about 30 minutes.
      2) Tedium. This stage typically lasts a few months
      3) Anger. Will you stop with that stupid joke already?
      4) Bargaining. If you stop making those stupid jokes, I'll stop pummelling your ribs with a baseball bat.
      5) Acceptance. Let the jokes flow through you, omnipresent yet harmless like the air. Find your inner peace. Make it your life's mission that

      • by Daetrin ( 576516 )
        Very true, and yet so few of us actually make it to stage 5. In particular the widespread dispersal of miniature chemical bombs part. He should be commended for his perseverance! And also appeased before he decides to active (any more of) the hidden remote triggers!
    • In case anyone was wondering:
      John B Goodenough: person, named 1922.
      Johnny B. Goode: song, released 1958.
      So Prof. Goodenough not only predates the Chuck Berry song, he also predates Chuck Berry (by four years.)

      • by quenda ( 644621 )

        So Prof. Goodenough not only predates the Chuck Berry song, he also predates Chuck Berry (by four years.)

        So there was nothing wrong with that name until he was 36 years old and that no-talent assclown Chuck Berry started winning Grammys?

  • Given the way Slashdot has devolved to the point where it isn't even a tech site anymore and it's frequented mostly by idiots who think Goodenough puns are funny, why wouldn't you just sirens your time doing something useful instead? (Serious question)
  • Energy density (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @05:55PM (#54122061) Homepage
    Over time batter energy density has improved by approximately 5-10% a year. Do you expect this trend to continue? If not, what do you expect will happen in the long-term? Are there other metrics by which you expect batteries to continue to improve?
  • by MondoGordo ( 2277808 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @05:55PM (#54122065)
    Assuming your new battery tech scales easily and economically for mass production and given the intensifying demand for such tech ... when would you expect to see it supplant lithium-ion as the battery technology of choice for manufacturers ?
  • "..he has recently created a new fast charging solid-state battery.."
    So be honest, who's the real inventor here?
    You or Maria?

    Not putting down your contribution, if it is Maria, as I'm sure your experience in the challenges of going from theory to consumer ready product, bringing a new battery to market, will be invaluable. I'm sure you had mentors too.
    I've got 2 daughters (& 4 sons), I'd like to think that our civilisation is progressing enough to the point where gender doesn't preclude recognition for

  • Why is every technology breakthrough I read about "five to ten years away from commercial viability."?
    • by subk ( 551165 )

      Why is every technology breakthrough I read about "five to ten years away from commercial viability."?

      It seems to fit, even in Goodenough's career.. Invented lithium-ion battery early 80's, implemented by Sony first in 1991. (I think I got that right, pulled it from memory without checking)

  • Demand for lithium is soaring and supply is scrabbling to keep up. If I was contemplating constructing a lithium mine/extraction facility, I would be worried that my investment might do fine for five years and then suddenly become worthless when some new battery chemistry came along. Is this fear justifiable? Is it reducing current or near-future lithium supply?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I am an electrical engineer and developing a battery pack for a light electric aircraft. What do you think is the next big application for batteries after EVs and home energy storage? Into what specific area of batteries should engineers focus their work on when developing battery systems? What is your ultimate vision for battery technology? Could you elaborate?

  • Dear John, (see what I did there?)

    do you have any positive (or negative, for that matter) opinions on use of hemp (as can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]) in batteries? Organic too..
    What about graphene?

  • John,

    Is it (theoretically) possible for a battery to reach the same energy density as fossil fuel? Gasoline has an energy density of 46MJ/kg while a lithium based battery has an energy density of around 1MJ/kg.

    This would mean that an electric car, boat or airplane would have the same potential range as their oil powered brethren.

    • by Eloking ( 877834 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @07:30PM (#54122847)

      John,

      Is it (theoretically) possible for a battery to reach the same energy density as fossil fuel? Gasoline has an energy density of 46MJ/kg while a lithium based battery has an energy density of around 1MJ/kg.

      This would mean that an electric car, boat or airplane would have the same potential range as their oil powered brethren.

      How come this is modded up? This is so deeply flawed.

      Gasoline engine are terribly inefficient (30-45%) compared to the electric (90-98%), meaning that you need far less energy density to reach the same range for it's weight. And let's not forget the braking. As for airplane, there's no electric equivalent to jet engine.

      Energy density is a factor, but not the only one. Price, Safety, speed of charge, number of cycle are all important to consider too.

      • by Ichijo ( 607641 )

        As for airplane, there's no electric equivalent to jet engine.

        Most modern airliners use high-pass turbofans which produce considerably more fan thrust than jet thrust. The electric equivalent of this is the Electric Ducted Fan jet [rc-airplane-world.com].

        • by Eloking ( 877834 )

          As for airplane, there's no electric equivalent to jet engine.

          Most modern airliners use high-pass turbofans which produce considerably more fan thrust than jet thrust. The electric equivalent of this is the Electric Ducted Fan jet [rc-airplane-world.com].

          Well turbofan is a type of jet engine no?

          And this "electric equivalent", I don't think it's even close to turbofan. What's their "Thrust-to-weight" ratio and their "Thrust specific fuel consumption"?

          Of course, maybe I'm completely off and if something does exist please show me.

          • An EDF is literally the closest electric equivalent of a modern airliner's engine, a big ducted fan driven by X, where X is an electric motor in the EDF, or a turbine engine in the turbofan. The range isn't equivalent due mostly to energy density.

            If you had an electric motor and a turbine with similar power and similar efficiencies (plausible), and a battery with equal power density to jet fuel, they could put out an equal amount of thrust for an equal amount of time when used to drive an identical ducted f

      • There's a 45% efficient ICE!?!? I thought they topped out at around 35%.

    • by mahju ( 160244 )

      Not for airplanes, as the fossil fuel burns away, so the total plane weight get significantly lighter at the end of its journey (sometimes half the weight).

      I'd think for an airplane it would be have to be at least x1.5 the density.

      (IANAAE... nowadays, but i trained as an Aerospace Engineer last century ;)

    • Is it (theoretically) possible for a battery to reach the same energy density as fossil fuel?

      The theoretical maximum battery capacity is well in excess of fossil fuel. A battery made of 50% matter and 50% anti-matter could conceivably convert its mass into energy. That is the theoretical limit but we are a long way technologically from getting anywhere even vaguely close.

      • That's not a battery, that's a guaranteed to explode in the factory bomb. You'll need a bunch more mass to generate the magnetic containment field to keep the antimatter from annihilating normal matter until you're ready. Plus a reactor in which to perform the annihilation that can convert the gamma radiation that carries off most fo the energy into something useful. And serious radiation shielding to protect anyone nearby from being exposed to the radiation which doesn't get converted.

        • That's not a battery, that's a guaranteed to explode in the factory bomb. You'll need a bunch more mass...

          You seem to be confusing the original question which was "Is it (theoretically) possible..." for is "Is it currently practically possible...". Indeed your argument about such a battery being a bomb applies equally well to fossil fuel the only difference being the size of the crater each will leave when the energy is released. Any battery with a sufficiently large energy storage is likely to be capable of exploding since it will contain lots of energy and must have a way to release it.

          There is no way to

          • The difference of course being that fossil fuels won't spontaneously explode if you lose active containment for a millisecond.

            But yes, otherwise I'm inclined to agree. Even stable antimatter storage is far from any theoretical power storage limit, something like high-density electron storage would make antimatter containment risks and challenges look like child's play.

  • by brad3378 ( 155304 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @06:24PM (#54122327)

    I've noticed that replacement lithium polymer battery packs for hybrid cars sell often sell for less than $1000 on eBay, while much smaller lithium based 12v batteries for conventional cars (with starter motors) often sell for more. As an example, here is a battery suitable for starting a small V8 that sells for $1600.00 http://www.jegs.com/i/Lithium-... [jegs.com]

    I would assume that it would be much easier to manufacture conventional 12v starter batteries in volume due to the ability to put them in many more different models of vehicles.

    The ability to shave off 30+ lbs of weight from racecars would be enormous, so the demand is there, but why not the supply?

    • If you want your race car to be light, just get rid of the battery entirely. You don't need a battery to race, only to crank the engine, something you really try to avoid doing whilst already racing.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      I've noticed that replacement lithium polymer battery packs for hybrid cars sell often sell for less than $1000 on eBay, while much smaller lithium based 12v batteries for conventional cars (with starter motors) often sell for more. As an example, here is a battery suitable for starting a small V8 that sells for $1600.00 http://www.jegs.com/i/Lithium-... [jegs.com]

      I would assume that it would be much easier to manufacture conventional 12v starter batteries in volume due to the ability to put them in many more differen

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'm curious about the development path leading to the recent announcement. What changed to make this battery possible now, versus a decade ago?

    Was it analytical techniques (better math, faster computers)? Measurement and observation tools (fast/fine X-Ray, femto-second pulsed lasers)? Overall progress in the physical, chemical and electro-chemical sciences? Assembling the right team and lab? Or was it more about waiting for a spark of insight or inspiration?

    Which factors dominated the development path?

  • 1) Is there any reason these batteries cannot be used for grid-scale energy storage?

    2) Who own the patents to the battery technology and will they license it cheaply or hold back the market for 20 years like the overly greedy venture capitalists behind Aquion Energy?

  • by tempest69 ( 572798 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @06:59PM (#54122577) Journal
    I am very excited about sodium batteries.
    As sodium is a much more environmentally friendly element to produce at large scale (my conjecture, I didn't look it up).

    What were the roadblocks of using sodium in previous batteries?
    I suspect whisker growth, but am not familiar with batteries enough to know other possibilities.

    With the glass version, what are the big drawbacks to using sodium instead of lithium (if any)?


    Thank you for your kind reply in advance!!
    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      Take a chunk of sodium and toss it in water, you get lye and hydrogen. The result is a very alkaline soil.

  • by marcle ( 1575627 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @07:27PM (#54122815)

    Prof. Goodenough,

    Right now, electric cars are only for the well-to-do. In my rural area, not only do people have to drive long miles, but many of them couldn't afford a new car anyway, let alone an electric one.

    Do you envision battery prices becoming down to the point where an electric vehicle can compete with a gas-powered car at the low end of the income scale as well as at the high end?

  • by LostMyBeaver ( 1226054 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @08:24PM (#54123249)
    To quote the paper :

    "the dipoles can be rapidly aligned at 100&#176;C by an ac applied electric field and frozen into alignment at 25&#176;C < Tg. "

    Has consideration been given (experimentation as well) within the laboratory environment to the behavior of the glass substrate within extreme naturally occurring temperatures. While, my personal property values increase proportionately with the effectiveness of global warming and hope at some point to own luxury resort beach front property here in Oslo, Norway, it's not uncommon to operate an EV within sub -20C temperatures and with -50C temperatures further north.

    Current Li based cells suffer badly within these climates. In addition, in the past working together with Lee (Elias) Stefanakos Ph.D. from USF, we experienced in Florida certain behaviors in higher unregulated temperatures (with regards to lead-acid cells.. circa 1993) behavioral degradation of chemical electrolytes at +37C (if I recall correctly).

    How does your and Maria's solid-state substrate behave within extreme temperatures. While I certainly am no material's scientist, I am curious whether there are behavioral symptoms displayed when performing under such naturally occurring extremes.

    In addition, fluid electrolytes can often "self-repair" under these circumstances as a result of "reflowing". If these negative behaviors are apparent in within the solid electrolyte, are the damages sustained (structural fractures for example) or does the substrate display typical expansion and contraction under naturally occurring conditions?

    For a bonus :) If the substrate reaches 100C again, what appears to be the behavior? Does it depend on a rapid decrease or "flash freeze" to 25C to stabilize the structure? Will it render the cell absolutely useless? Will it simply continue "business as usual"?
  • What other developments in the field of energy storage do you keep a close eye on? Do you forsee breakthroughs coming from other technologies such as gyroscopes or even organic hydrogen production?
  • Is good enough good enough for Goodenough?
  • Viability (Score:5, Interesting)

    by OneHundredAndTen ( 1523865 ) on Monday March 27, 2017 @09:11PM (#54123703)
    We keep hearing about breakthroughs in the battery technology world to the tune of several per year. After many years in this forum, the empirical observation is that such breakthroughs are forgotten after a few months, quietly buried, practically never having a measurable impact on our lives. Please explain why your latest claim about a battery breakthrough is not going to end up following that route.
  • Have you contacted Elon Musk, or has he already contacted you?

  • Is it fair to credit you that we have RC helicopters and multicopters?
    Either way, thanks for all you've contributed.

  • Somewhere around the mid- to late 2000s, I was researching LiFEPO4 patents, and came across the University of Texas (UT) patent for which you are listed as an inventor. When I investigated licensing the patent, it was so expensive that it was not profitable to bother with the license at all. The factory partner I worked with was in China, and they were mass-producing the same LiFePO4 for jurisdictions not impacted by the patent.

    As I understand it, the law firm that UT chose to manage the patent set a price that was incredibly high. Then, invariably, some company would build a market for a LiFePO4 product that violated the patent, and then the law firm would step in after the company had actually done some business and sue them for all they were worth. I have to admit that this last bit was told to me by some battery industry veterans, but it seems plausible based on how the battery industry works.

    Nonetheless, the decision of UT to exclusively grant permission to the law firm to manage the patent kept the invention out of the market and likely cost UT some incredible amount (billions?) in royalties.

    How do you feel about your invention, which clearly made mass-production of the chemistry viable, being effectively kept off the market for so long?

    (BTW, when UT lowered their prices with, like, 5 years or so left on the patent, the factory I worked with immediately purchased the licensed material for selling their batteries in the U.S.)

  • Someone from Ars wrote a great article about several scientists critique of the solid anode/cathode idea not behaving like a 'traditional battery' and 'must be using some unknown physics' since the chemical changes in a solid wouldn't flow/propagate through the electrolyte. How is the chemical reaction causing a charge to accumulate in this solid? This article has since disappeared from the internet. How large was this battery you made? how many did you make? Can you supply the data and build instructi
  • Rechargeable lithium cells are clearly excellent and power the majority of battery powered things I own. However, by comparison to older, less energy dense techs, they don't seem especially robust, for instance they degrade fast if deep discharged or left at very low charge levels. By comparison, say, NiCd batteries are very robust: while they do lose life, they do it in a pretty slowly and predictable way, you don't get it going off a cliff edge. I've noticed with some (though not all) devices, the battery

  • Do you envision batteries being able to run a sophisticated smart watch for at least a week? I would gladly buy such a smart watch if it wasn't overly large and expensive.

  • Change it to Greatenough to spur all the hecklers.

  • Why portable fuel cells didn't take off yet? Refueling would be much faster than recharging.
  • Do you think lithium ion batteries will ever be able to economically provide grid scale frequency regulation? If so what timelines?

    Do you think lithium ion batteries will ever be able to economically provide grid scale peak/valley stabilization? If so what timelines?

    If not what tech do you see filling that gap and any timelines?

  • Mr. Goodenough,

    It seems that the world's reserves of lithium are far more centralized than nearly any other energy source. Do you foresee a way to avoid the geopolitical struggles for lithium ore that we experience with oil reserves?

    Do you see an upper limit on the ability to recycle and reuse existing lithium batteries (those that have avoided a landfill)?

  • With so many different research approaches to improving batteries, investment in bringing new technology to production scale is often viewed as a hazardous endeavor... there's a pretty good chance the tech you pick will end up getting surpassed by another before financials break even.

    Obviously the free market helps foster a spirit of competition, but its brutal Darwinism also serves as a disincentive. Planned market solutions can spread out risk, but also have to be wary of funding completely unworthy ende

  • Do your fake new batteries use zero-point energy to achieve perpetual motion or do they use cold fusion instead?
  • How thick is the initial anode foil of Li or Na? This determines the capacity of the battery. All quantities in the paper are expressed per gram of lithium.

    The cathode has particles of glass electrolyte, carbon, and sulphur, with a copper collector. When the lithium is plated onto the cathode, upon which of these components is it plated, and how thick is the plating?

  • In the IEEE article, it was stated that the cathode problem has not yet been solved. Can you elaborate on this? Were the lab experiments conducted without a cathode?

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