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Power Technology

The Slashdot Interview With Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John B. Goodenough 103

You asked, he answered!

Lithium-ion battery inventor John B. Goodenough has responded to questions submitted by Slashdot readers. Read on for his answers.
Ready for mass production?
by hduff

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

JBG: At the present time, we do not envision any problems with scale up. Although we have demonstrated with coin cells and a jelly-roll cell how to make novel cathodes, we have not optimized the cathode capacity, voltage, and discharge/charge rates. The anode problem is solved, but battery manufacturers will need to work with Li or Na anodes, which means dry-room assembly.

Critics
by Anonymous Coward

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

JBG: We respond by demonstrating the concepts in individual coin cells. We do not do the development work. We believe that practical batteries can be marketed in about 3 years.

Electrode material?
by Razed By TV

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?

JBG: We have made zero-voltage symmetric cells Li/Li+-glass/Li that are still cycling after more than 2000 cycles at 3 mA/cm2. The key to the concept of a battery voltage that takes metallic lithium from the anode and plates it on the cathode is that a thin lithium (order of a micron thick) current collector is plated on a copper (or other) cathode lithium having a chemical potential over 3.5 V below that of metallic.

Li-ion battery fires
by Anonymous Coward

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?

JBG: The origin of the Li-ion battery fires is the flammable organic-liquid electrolyte and the graphite anode. If the battery is charged too rapidly, metallic lithium is plated on the graphite, and lithium does not wet or is not wet by the electrolyte. As a result, on repeated charging, lithium dendrites (whiskers) form and grow across the liquid electrolyte to the cathode and create a short-circuit, which heats the battery and ignites the electrolyte. If the battery manufacturer does not incorporate a control of the rate of charge, fires follow.

Energy density
by JoshuaZ

Over time battery 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?

JBG: Energy density needs to be coupled to the charge/discharge cycle life; with the organic-liquid electrolytes now in use, batteries of high volumetric and/or specific energy density undergo a poor cycle life. The ability to plate a metallic-lithium anode dendrite-free from a solid electrolyte that is not reduced on contact with metallic lithium solves the safety problem, allows a long cycle life, and maximizes the energy density for a given cathode. However, the cathode strategies to optimize the density of stored energy in a full cell are yet to be determined for three different types of cathodes.

Time to market
by MondoGordo

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?

JBG: It will take competent battery manufacturers about two to three years to develop a marketable product. Once the technology is demonstrated by one, others will fall into line very rapidly.

Why?
by Bodhammer

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

JBG: There is a large difference between a laboratory experiment and a workable battery product. The potential market is huge, but incremental steps will not get us there. But without a demonstration of a novel approach, the estimate of 10 years away is an expression of hope for a true breakthrough. I believe that in two to three years our novel batteries will be marketed.

Will there always be a demand for lithium?
by Michael Woodhams

Will there always be a demand for lithium? 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?

JBG: The lithium battery will give 0.3 V higher discharge voltage than sodium, and sodium cathodes are less easy to design than lithium cathodes. However, we have demonstrated good sodium batteries; and people are working on recycling of lithium, which may reduce our vulnerability to finite lithium reserves. Lithium batteries will be marketed for a long time, but sodium batteries can be expected to enter the market within 5 years.

Where to next?
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?

JBG: Inexpensive batteries that are safe, have a long cycle life, a higher energy density, and a satisfactory charge/discharge rate can be expected to be on the market in about 2 to 3 years. They will have multiple applications, small and large.

Limit of energy density
by Eloking

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.

JBG: Fossil fuels will always have a higher density of stored energy, but the efficiency of electric-power storage in a battery is greater than the efficiency of a combustion engine. I believe that electric power stored in electrochemical cells can compete relatively soon in convenience and performance with the internal combustion engine without the hidden losses to society by the burning of fossil fuel.

Why aren't 12 V lithium car batteries more popular?
by brad3378

I've noticed that replacement lithium polymer battery packs for hybrid cars often sell for less than $1,000 on eBay, while much smaller lithium based 12 V 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 $1,600.00. I would assume that it would be much easier to manufacture conventional 12 V starter batteries in volume due to the ability to put them in many more different models of vehicles. The ability to shave off 30+ pounds of weight from race cars would be enormous, so the demand is there, but why not the supply?

JBG: The lead-acid battery is here and is safe. The present Li-ion battery has safety problems and is too expensive. We need a step improvement from the lithium-ion battery to a safe metallic-lithium battery that is cheap to manufacture and to recycle. We believe we have demonstrated this is possible.

What were the problems along the way?
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? And what about the path forward to commercialization?

JBG: What has changed is the ability to plate dendrite-free lithium from a non-flammable solid electrolyte that has a cation conductivity nearly as high as that of the flammable liquid electrolyte of the lithium-ion battery.

Patents
by Gravis Zero

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?

JBG: 1) Our technology can provide competitive grid energy storage and 2) we plan to license the technology to many manufacturers; we want to avoid an exclusive license.

What are the downsides to your sodium batteries
by tempest69

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!

JBG: Sodium is cheaper than lithium and widely available from the ocean. The principal drawbacks include a loss of 0.3 volts relative to lithium, fewer number of cathode materials that can serve as traditional insertion compounds, and a somewhat greater difficulty to handle in a manufacturing process. However, we have demonstrated a new battery strategy that promises to allow sodium batteries to enter the market competitively.

It's the economics
by marcle

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 coming 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?

JBG: Yes, I do envision that within 5 years electric cars that can compete in price and performance with those powered by gasoline will become available.

What do you watch?
by ihaveamo

What other developments in the field of energy storage do you keep a close eye on? Do you foresee breakthroughs coming from other technologies such as gyroscopes or even organic hydrogen production?

JBG:I have no crystal ball on other technologies, but I would not bet on the room-temperature fuel cell powered by hydrogen gas.

Viability
by OneHundredAndTen

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.

JBG:We have done many tests with laboratory cells. Manufacturing a marketable battery cell will take about 2 years of development by a competent battery company, but we have over 50 companies showing interest to be able to perform tests of our results. I am optimistic that our tests will be verified and that product development will begin soon.

How do you feel about UT patent management?
by MyFirstNameIsPaul

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.)

JBG:UT has now developed an Office of Technology Commercialization that is much more competent. We are building a patent portfolio that I hope will prove successful, and we will not offer an exclusive license. I cannot comment on pirating by the Chinese, but I believe they are learning it is better to play by the international rules. However, where billions of dollars are at stake, the vultures are circling.

Why are they not especially robust?
by serviscope_minor

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 life drops from hours to minutes in a relatively short timespan. The battery meter also ceases working, which I assume means that the internal resistance spikes way up suddenly and at higher voltages than fresh cells. Can you offer any good insight as to why this happens, and do you think there are going to developments in the pipeline which will introduce the tolerance of the cells? Or are we going to have to rely on better quality active protection circuitry instead?

JBG:The present lithium-ion batteries have many drawbacks because they use a flammable liquid electrolyte that has a small window for a stable voltage range. We have a nonflammable solid electrolyte with a comparable cation conductivity and a large energy window to allow plating a lithium anode dendrite free; a lithium anode is still cycling after more than 2000 charge/discharge cycles and it is not oxidized by the cathode up to a 5 V discharge.

A lithium powered energy economy
by kyubre

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)?

JBG:You raise an important point. We have demonstrated we can make sodium cells with only a loss of 0.3 V compared to lithium cells, and sodium is available from the oceans. However, it is important to develop the means to recycle the lithium batteries to reduce vulnerability to the situation you cite.

Too many ways to skin the cat
by skids

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 endeavors... if everyone working on batteries, win or lose, got a small but guaranteed "compensation prize," lots of people would jump in and claim without merit to be working on batteries. Subdividing the technology so that different phases of a manufacturing process are developed by different entities seems a promising idea for those parts of the technology that may have wider applications or may apply to multiple competing designs -- but that would require a lot of advocacy which just does not seem to be there. Have you seen any interesting proposals for business/market/public-funding models to address the "too many ways to skin a cat" problem?

JBG:True, the large prize has stimulated a world-wide competition for a solution. We have introduced the first all-solid-state technology that can operate below room temperature, is inexpensive for up to a 3-volt discharge, and can use a conventional cathode to over 4.2 V discharge with a long cycle life. Over 50 battery companies have shown interest in validating our findings and marketing products.

Battery structure and capacity
by gantry

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?

JBG:You are correct to imply that plating on the cathode from the anode can only give a voltage for a finite thickness of the plated material on the cathode side. We have not yet obtained a good measure of the thickness of the cathode plating that is viable, but it appears to be micro not nanometers thick. Optimizing the capacity will involve the ability to optimize the surface area of the cathode material. This optimization has yet to be performed, but we can plate sodium as well as lithium.

Cathode problem?
by bayduv1n

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?

JBG:We have demonstrated two approaches to the cathode of a rechargeable battery: plating of the alkali-metal anode onto a cathode current collector of lower chemical potential to a limited thickness over a large surface area and a conventional high-voltage insertion compound with a plasticizer contacting the cathode. Both work.
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The Slashdot Interview With Lithium-Ion Battery Inventor John B. Goodenough

Comments Filter:
  • modding (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:24AM (#54263231)

    Hi guys, can we please mod down all goodenough jokes beyond this point? I just want to read the comments minus shitposting this time.

    Yours ironically,
    AC

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Don't worry. I am certain that Slashdot's moderators will B. Goodenough to keep the crappy comments under control.

      (With apologies to Mr. Goodenough)

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You sound like the jokes are not goodenough.
  • Knowledgable (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stonesand ( 922187 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:33AM (#54263263) Homepage
    Dang, that guy knows his stuff.
    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Yeah. Don't you wished politicians answered questions this way:

      What has changed is the ability to plate dendrite-free lithium from a non-flammable solid electrolyte that has a cation conductivity nearly as high as that of the flammable liquid electrolyte of the lithium-ion battery.

      • He did repeat his stock phrase "in two to three" years a helluva lot.

        • by hey! ( 33014 )

          Well, how long do you think it would take to get a development from laboratory prototype to sitting in a blister pack at the hardware store?

        • Agreed. However, most of the questions did ask some form of the question "when will it be ready" and he answered the same way each time.

          In keeping with the spirit of the earlier post, wouldn't it be nice if politicians did that too?

    • He sounds like a marketing head.

      Why do Lithium batteries suddenly fail after their useful lifecycle? "The present lithium-ion batteries have many drawbacks because they use a flammable liquid electrolyte that has a small window for a stable voltage range."

      That's not what was asked. The flammable liquid electrolyte doesn't have jack-all shit to do with why lithium ion batteries suddenly lose capacity when they've been cycled too much. They lose capacity because the anode starts to degrade, pulling anc

      • Re:Knowledgable (Score:4, Informative)

        by bws111 ( 1216812 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @02:28PM (#54264761)

        He mentioned the anode in several of the answers. He said the solution to the anode problem is using the electrolyte to plate the anode with lithium. He said that the organic, flammable, liquid electrolytes can't be used to plate the anode because dendrites form, leading to shorts and fires. About the only thing he did not specifically state was that as the anode deteriorates the voltage goes down until it is out of the electrolytes stable range, and then the battery is dead.

        So, yes, the organic flammable liquid electrolyte is precisely why the batteries suddenly go dead.

      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        You're assuming that "window" means "percentage charge window", as opposed to "window of time", "temperature window", or any of the other things that it could have meant.

        • A lithium ion battery at present has a very stable voltage between ~5% charge and ~95% charge. Outside that range, it has a sudden, sharp voltage drop-off (low state of charge) or a sudden, sharp voltage increase (high state of charge). The 100% state-of-charge is saturated, technically: you can't force more charge into the battery. That means that top 5% is really the top 5%, and not an artificial limit.

          That implies that 90% of the battery's run time also supplies a stable voltage. That's a pretty w

          • by Rei ( 128717 )

            Once again, half your post focuses on your assumption that he was talking about voltage stability over a range of charge levels. That's your assumption. Great on you to make that assumption.

            Lithium ion batteries are also stable at a wide range of temperatures, and retain over 90% of capacity between operating temperatures of 10C through 60C; below that, they drop off rather-quickly.

            Good thing we don't live in a world where it's common to have temperatures below 10C.

            For the record, I live in a place where o

            • half your post focuses on your assumption that he was talking about voltage stability over a range of charge levels. That's your assumption.

              It's the reasonable assumption. You haven't proposed one that is more reasonable, unless you're suggesting JBG is just an idiot.

              Good thing we don't live in a world where it's common to have temperatures below 10C.

              It's still a wide range, and it's the range at which we operate most of these batteries in most contexts. One of the wonderful things about water is it's liquid across a wide range of temperatures, allowing life across the majority of climate zones on planets in the habitable zone of a star--such as Earth. That's only about a 100C range; and cats are uncomfortable above about

          • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

            He did not say anything about a stable output voltage. He said the electrolytes have a small window for a stable voltage range. The most likely means that if you charge the electrolyte to (for instance) 3.4 volts it will be stable, but you can't charge it to more than 3.5 volts or less than 3.3 volts. That is a small stable voltage range REGARDLESS of how well it holds that charge or delivers that voltage on discharge. And that is important, because as the internal resistance increases (due to anode dec

            • The most likely means that if you charge the electrolyte to (for instance) 3.4 volts it will be stable, but you can't charge it to more than 3.5 volts or less than 3.3 volts.

              This is a desirable attribute of a battery. It's what makes lithium batteries so much better than NiCd and, to a lesser degree, NiMH: they only have high voltage when within small percentage of their maximum state of charge; they hold near-flat voltage until chemically-exhausted; and they quickly fall off when discharged.

              Physically, a battery outputs higher voltage when a larger amount of its chemistry reacts at once. More electrons ready to go on one end, more positively-charged matter on the other.

              • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

                For someone who says others are unable to follow a conversation, you certainly show yourself to be unable to do so.

                You are talking about stability during a discharge cycle. Of course that is important, and nobody is saying anything that even remotely contradicts that. This is the 'stable voltage range' he is refering to.

                But he was aked about the FAILURE mode of the batteries. And in answer to that he said there is a narrow WINDOW which will produce that stable voltage range. The WINDOW is refering to th

                • For someone who says others are unable to follow a conversation, you certainly show yourself to be unable to do so

                  I'm following the current discussion. Let me remind you that my post above was in response to your post:

                  He said the electrolytes have a small window for a stable voltage range. The most likely means that if you charge the electrolyte to (for instance) 3.4 volts it will be stable, but you can't charge it to more than 3.5 volts or less than 3.3 volts.

                  So my response on state-of-charge and the desirability of a stable voltage range is appropriate for the context of this discussion. Good try, but I have a bullshit-cutting katana.

                  But he was aked about the FAILURE mode of the batteries. And in answer to that he said there is a narrow WINDOW which will produce that stable voltage range. The WINDOW is refering to the CHARGE voltages that are required in order for the battery to produce that stable range on discharge.

                  Actually, the voltage at which you charge the battery only affects the rate at which it charges (and the amount of overcharge you can get when nearing/exceeding 100% capacity). Discharge voltage is controlled entirely by b

      • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

        In your effort to appear superior to the guy who invented that battery, you managed to prove his point. The reason that batteries have the characteristic you pointed out is BECAUSE lithium has a narrow stable VOLTAGE range. They are either at that narrow range, or they are dead. Once the anode deteriorates sufficiently (due to the lack of plating), the resistance increases until the lithium no longer reaches that voltage during a charge, and the battery is dead. If lithium had a wide range (as you state

        • He didn't say they have a narrow stable voltage range; he said they have a narrow window for a stable voltage range. There is a window within which they are in a stable voltage range; outside that window, their voltage range is unstable. That window is 90% of the battery's charge capacity.

          Second, a stable voltage is a desirable characteristic of a battery. You want a stable voltage. You want it to be 4.2V, or 3.3V; you don't want a battery that may be something between 3 and 5 AA cells. Remember how

  • by supremebob ( 574732 ) <themejunky@geociti e s . c om> on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:36AM (#54263279) Journal

    https://xkcd.com/678/ [xkcd.com]

    They didn't have a "2 year" option in that chart, but I think that the "5 year" option applies.

    • Re:Relevant XKCD (Score:5, Insightful)

      by taiwanjohn ( 103839 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @12:29PM (#54263681)

      I recently saw a talk [youtube.com] about the upcoming "Clean Disruption" [goodreads.com] which is right around the corner. He looks at secular trends, such as the falling price per watt of solar PV or the price per kwh of Li-Ion batteries, and concludes that our current modes of energy and transportation will be obsolete by 2030.

      To portray the speed with which such 'disruptions' can occur, he begins the talk with a photo of 5th Ave., NYC, Easter Sunday, 1900. The street is packed with horse-drawn vehicles, but there is one car ("horseless carriage") in view, if you squint... Then he shows a photo from the same spot, same day, in 1913. The street is packed with Model-T Fords, and there is one horse in view, if you squint even harder.

      He claims that we are on the threshold of a similar tipping point right now. By 2030, that same photo of 5th Ave. will show an ocean of EV's with only one ICE vehicle in view.

      • By 2030, that same photo of 5th Ave. will show an ocean of EV's with only one ICE vehicle in view.

        Considering that the average age of an auto in the US is eleven years and increasing, that is probably overly optimistic. Manufacturer projections are that they will be only selling 1-2% EVs by 2020, so anything beyond 20-25% by 2030 is unfortunately unrealistic (based on what the manufacturers will be producing if nothing else).

        • Manufacturer projections are that they will be only selling 1-2% EVs by 2020

          This point is directly addressed in the talk. He cites a 1985 McKinsey study that predicted cell-phone penetration would by 900k by 2000 (the actual number turned out to be 100+ million) to show that "experts" often fail to notice these disruptions. Yes, auto-makers may be projecting 1~2% sales by 2020, but the vast majority of them are rushing to bring EV's to market in the next few years. Their actions speak louder than their words.

          Based solely on the falling price of battery "energy density", he predicts

          • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

            What he is doing is cherry-picking. Yes, there have been cases where 'experts' drastically underestimated the impact something would have. However, there are just as many cases where they over-estimated the impact something would have. SSTs were going to drastically change air travel, except they didn't. Segways were going to change urban transport forever, except they didn't. The difference between over- and under-estimation is that the things that were under-estimated are around to remind us of the e

            • Having 1-2% of your cars be EVs is better than having 0% of your cars be EVs

              The point is, manufacturers are adopting EVs at a much faster rate than the "1~2%" curve would lead you to believe.

              Put it this way: When Tesla announces the Model 3, and in less than one week a BILLION DOLLARS of pre-sales are logged, the industry sits up and takes notice. THEY sense that a tipping point is imminent, which is why they are rushing to meet the market.

              • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

                Telsa's pre-sales run to about 400K cars. 17.55 million new cars were sold in the US in 2016. So, if all of those pre-sales turn into actual sales, that is about 2% of car sales. Once. Is there any indication that they would sell ANOTHER 400K cars the next year, or will everyone who wants one already have one? That remains to be seen.

                You have provided zero evidence that 'manufacturers are adopting EVs at a much faster pace...'. Have they announced the conversion of factories to EVs away from ICEs? Ha

                • I'd suggest you watch the lecture linked in my original post. All your questions are answered there.

                  But briefly: Yes, many major automakers have announced plans for EVs in the next few years. [fleetcarma.com] And of course, Nissan, Toyota, GM, and Daimler already have EVs on the market.

                  The main point in the lecture is the trend in battery cost over the last 20 years, which has been falling at 14% per year. Mapping that trend into the future, the speaker (Tony Seba) predicts when EVs will cross certain price thresholds, fina

                  • The problem is that you are still talking new cars and new car pricing. I think that it is possible that >95% of new vehicles in 2030 will be EV's. But there is no way we'll see anything close to 50% of the vehicles on the road being EV's by that time. It's simply a numbers game and people just don't replace their vehicles frequently enough to hit that kind of target even if all new vehicles were EV's. The only way it'd be possible that I can see would be if the cost of new EV's was low enough to compete

        • The key inflection point is coming soon. When you can buy 25 year warranty 10kW of solar panels for $5000 (1600kWh/month generation and if batteries get really cheap and high energy density (48h of household run time/1000 mile range per charge vehicle range) the main barrier cost of EVs disappears. An industrial motor for an economy car is around $500 including the motor driver vs an ICE at $900 plus a $900 transmission that you don't need with an electric motor. If you can start selling economical EVs f

    • That's precisely why he says 2 to 3 years, not 5 or more. Everyone knows "5 years to commercial" means it will probably never happen. Including him.
  • I would be interested to see what kind of failure modes there are for this new battery technology.
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      I would be interested to see what kind of failure modes there are for this new battery technology.

      Since they claimed to not have totally figured out the "cathode" configuration part yet, I suspect that's the part that's that's the weak part in the chain...
      Generally, any difficulties like this in the lab point will lead to a lack of guidance in these areas for commercial solutions which will in turn translate to poorly understood commercial solutions. So any such difficulties are often the prime suspect for failure modes.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Still contains lithium or sodium metal. So in short, don't crack it open and chunk it in a bucket of water.

      Everything else is pretty tame.

  • Thanks! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by olau ( 314197 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @11:53AM (#54263377) Homepage

    I for one enjoyed reading the replies. Although many of them didn't directly answer the questions asked, Goodenough comes across as a true battery nerd. Exactly the sort of person we need more of in this world. We'll see if the tech can be mass-produced cheap enough to compete with lithium-ion in the coming years.

    • Re: Thanks! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Agree, it felt like he had talking points and things he wanted to address regardless of what was asked. Mainly how his product will be ready in 3 years.

    • Same here. There's been a ton of work being done in the area of "storage" in recent years, and I've been following it all with geeky obsession... It's refreshing to get such a unique POV on the current state of the art from a veteran without much of an axe to grind. (Of course he favors his own new invention, but he's up-front about that... meanwhile, his insights on the overall industry and the basic chemistries in play are very illuminating.)

  • We are well into the 21st century — where are the Shipstones?

    • by Punko ( 784684 )
      The novel Friday mentioned obliquely the biggest problem with the concept of the Shipstone. If you have an object, which has the ability to store large amounts of energy, you have a bomb. The Shipstone story in the novel has Shipstone himself telling his wife that the best minds in science wouldn't be able to figure it out themselves, or would blow themselves up.

      Let's say we have a solid state battery that would produce 30 years worth of electricity for your house. (in the book a lifetime Shipstone w
      • by Rei ( 128717 )

        I don't know what "Shipstones" are, but I'll just point out that "Being able to deliver a lot of energy" and "being able to deliver a lot of energy quickly" are two entirely different things. The rusting of aluminum gives off a lot more energy than the detonation of an equivalent mass of TNT, but they occur on entirely different timescales.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    A lithium powered energy economy
    by kyubre

    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)?

    JBG:You raise an important point. We have demonstrated we can make sodium cells with only a loss of 0.3 V compared to lithium cells, and sodium is available from the oceans. However, it is important to develop the means to recycle the lithium batteries to reduce vulnerability to the situation you cite.

    Lithium is also available in the oceans and progress is being made on an economical extraction method. Further, there hasn't really been much searching for lithium reserves yet. Once people start looking into the problem, many potential solutions will be found, and the best ones will win out.

    • by Rei ( 128717 )

      Agreed. Lithium isn't even all that expensive, compared to the price of the batteries it goes into; it's so cheap that it's used in low value products like greases, glass, glazings, etc.Current reserves figures are not just based on limited exploration, but limited exploration at a very low dollar value.

      That said, sodium metal is ridiculously cheap in bulk - like $3/kg or less. Cheaper still if it doesn't have to be packaged for transport (aka, used on-site). If you can make sodium-ion batteries with a se

  • I'm sure I have the terms and roles mangled, but when doing science for the purpose of inventing something like a new battery do scientists actually consider whether their research path yields an invention that can actually be scaled up to mass production?

    This guy seemed to be "Well, we figured out how it works, but I'm done now, somebody else has to figure out how to make more than the 2 prototypes I spent 4 years making in the lab."

    It reminds me of the kick-the-can-down-the-road in the technology business

    • by cranky_chemist ( 1592441 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @01:30PM (#54264225)

      There's a good reason for this.

      The funding agencies from which scientists seek money fund "research," in the broad sense, not "development." What you're hinting at is the fundamental difference between the two.

      Agencies like NSF tend to assume that if one of the projects they fund has practical applications, then "partners" (i.e., the private sector) will handle the development. Indeed, this is how Goodenough's original battery design came to market. Sony licensed the patent from Oxford University in the 1980s and started mass-producing lithium-ion batteries, paying Oxford a royalty on every battery manufactured.

    • by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @01:44PM (#54264359)

      This guy seemed to be "Well, we figured out how it works, but I'm done now, somebody else has to figure out how to make more than the 2 prototypes I spent 4 years making in the lab."

      Just to give you something to consider, here is a picture of the very first transistor. [history-computer.com]

    • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

      You are talking about completely different disciplines. Someone who is an expert in the chemistry of a battery may not know anything about the issues involved in actually manufacturing said battery. Someone who is an expert at manufacturing may not know anything about the chemistry involved.

      Your 'kick the can' scenario doesn't have anything to do with the above. That happens because it is enormously expensive, in both time and money, to get a design change into hardware. The farther you move down that c

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Someone who is an expert in the chemistry of a battery may not know anything about the issues involved in actually manufacturing said battery.

        Part of me wonders if maybe we should have more cross-functional research teams, including people with manufacturing at scale experience. If the research in question is really just basic chemistry research and a battery just happens to come out of it, then maybe a manufacturing guy isn't appropriate.

        But if the goal is to actually design a new battery, maybe the manufacturing guy would be useful, helping to avoid potential designs that would have issues in terms of scaling up.

  • by jwillis84 ( 1404829 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @02:13PM (#54264607)

    I really enjoyed the straight forward answers and the precise thought that went into them.

    1. The core solution being "dendrite" free plating of the anode and solid "not" liquid electrolyte

    2. The problem of current batteries being the "highly" flammable organic electrolyte

    3. The catastrophy being an exploit of dendrites discharging (due to a short circuit) so fast the electrolyte is "ignited"

    4. The direct point about the new Patent lawyers "being" more competent than before, and "exclusive" licensing being deliberately "eliminated"

    5. He did not bury the Sodium battery tech that will follow up two years [after] this hits the market.. which will be almost immediate.. its just a matter of ramp up

    6. He was flat out honest that the [key] was new plating tech.. that did not exist.. before.. that is what made the breakthrough possible.. it wasn't some random insight.. they knew exactly what the problem was all along.. it was a materials science problem.

    I was also taken by his generosity and personal interest in "changing the world" for the better.. without demonizing anything as it is currently done.. he is a spot on solid scientist first.. and a pretty dedicated one at that.

    The comment on energy density [never] eclipsing that of fossil fuels was also very honest.. but nevertheless practical.. seeing as how its a lot easier to transport electromotive force over long distances than messy fossil fuels.. and to maintain machines that convert that potential into kinetic energy at high efficiencies "much much" easier.. than the "chemical manufacturing plants on wheels".

    He deftly moved from topic to topic like a political "Wizard" unseen since Richard Feynman's days.

  • by neurocutie ( 677249 ) on Wednesday April 19, 2017 @02:47PM (#54264907)

    Another question that I would have liked to see address: Prospects for much better cold weather (and hot weather) battery performance.
    If we are to replace IC vehicles with electric vehicles, we need batteries that be perform well at -20F or colder. Also 130F or hotter. What can be done to span a greater range of real-world operating temperatures?

  • While I didn't understand all the technical details, I thought it was fantastic that he presented that level of detail. Thank you!

    I am curious about the sodium vs lithium characteristics, as he mentioned them several times. He stated the sodium discharge rate is 0.3 V less than lithium (three times, to be exact). What exactly does this mean? Would a sodium battery have to be larger / heavier than a lithium ion to generate the same voltage? Does it mean it cannot charge or discharge as fast? I'm just cu

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