Battery Researchers Mystified by New Goodenough Paper on Solid State Battery (“It’s Kind of Like Cold Fusion”)

Thanks to readers who brought my attention to an interesting development in the world of battery research and development.

On February 28th, 2017, the University of Texas at Austin published a press release announcing that a team led by John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering had made a breakthrough by developing “first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging, longer-lasting rechargeable batteries for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.”

John Goodenough is a 94 year-old solid state physicist who is considered to be the one of the key researchers behind the development of the lithium-ion battery.

More from the press release:

“Today’s lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions between the anode (the negative side of the battery) and the cathode (the positive side of the battery). 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) — which isn’t possible with conventional batteries — 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.

“Additionally, because the solid-glass electrolytes can operate, or have high conductivity, at -20 degrees Celsius, this type of battery in a car could perform well in subzero degree weather. This is the first all-solid-state battery cell that can operate under 60 degree Celsius.”

The team published a paper, (lead author Maria Helena Braga) titled “Alternative strategy for a safe rechargeable battery” can be read in the journal Engineering and Environmental Science here.

There has been an interesting response among battery researcher to the published research. An article published on the Quarz website reports how some researchers are somewhat incredulous about what Goodenough’s paper reports. Here are some excerpts and comments:

“It’s what is not stated in the paper that has some of the battery community stumped. How is Goodenough’s new invention storing any energy at all? The known rules of physics state that, to derive energy, differing material must produce differing eletro-chemical reactions in the two opposing electrodes. That difference produces voltage, allowing energy to be stored. But Goodenough’s battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz . . .

“‘If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it’s hard to find a polite word,’ Daniel Steingart, a professor at Princeton, told Quartz . . .

“He’s technically made a perpetual motion machine,” said Venkat Viswanathan, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania . . .

“’It’s kind of like cold fusion. Here is an experiment that is unbelievable,’said Dalhousie University’s Jeff Dahn, a leading researcher whose Canadian laboratory is on a contract with Tesla. ‘There could be a small possibility that it is right.'”

Daniel Steingart has written an essay in which he speculates that air might have somehow leaked into the battery, making this a lithium air battery, but this idea has been rejected by Braga, who has been responding to questions via email.

So it’s an interesting development. Battery technology had been notoriously hard to improve significantly, which has proven to be something of a holdup for more speedy deployment of electric vehicles and other applications where improved energy storage and energy density is needed. If this really is the major breakthrough the researchers claim, it could turn out to be very important.

  • sam
  • Zephir

    The research of batteries, renewables and another substitutes of actual energy sources just delays their streamlined research and dilutes the research capacity for it. If you want get married, just date a women instead of cat or dog, if you want to have cold fusion just start to work on it. It’s as simple as it is.

  • Zephir

    The research of batteries isn’t “kind of cold fusion” – but it actually competes the cold fusion, i.e. the concept of production of energy at place. The production of energy on demand would eliminate the need of grid and the need of batteries instead.

  • Veblin
  • Alan DeAngelis

    The Mpemba effect was discovered by a teenager.

    • Hhiram

      Reread my post. We don’t dismiss extraordinary claims based on lack of authority, we simply require that they be supported with extraordinary evidence.

  • sam
  • theBuckWheat

    I chafe when insiders say that they only believe this because of the reputation of the author and that were it anyone else the concept would be dismissed almost out of hand and then with impolite language. They are telling me that the who is more important than the what. That is not science that is politics and cronyism. The device in the paper will either be reproducible by a third party or it will not.

    • cashmemorz

      Scientifically oriented people are still people, not walking dispassionate science machines. That is why nepotism exists and why reputation matters. If a person has done similarly, even if not as spectacular as claimed in the point of this thread, then future expectations are based on past performance. Reputation. If that is never taken into account then anything anyone does is considered in purely logical manner. We, people can be logical but, also trusting but still check out what is being trusted. Remember that is exactly why cold fusion, AKA LENR, has had a hard time vis a vis mainstream science.

      • sam

        Hi Cashmemorz
        I was wondering if you think it
        would be worthwhile to try and
        get an Ontario University to assist Bob Grenyer and MFMP.
        Or would they be reputation
        worriers as well.
        I think they would have nothing
        to lose and maybe lots to gain.

        From a fellow Ontarian

        • cashmemorz

          Worth a try. Myself am out of touch with U of T. So I wouldn’t be able to do much from a cold start. it would take some digging around to get someone to just talk about LENR. Something to consider. If I get to understand how that community looks on things a little out of left field then I might do something further. The first thing I will do is talk to a few professionals that I personally know in other fields just to get a general feel of how others look on things like LENR and go from there. An interesting challenge. Anything might happen. Maybe something even positive. If so I will be back here.

          One point that may get this going is by broaching the subject about what I have noticed what the premier, Kathleen Wynn has managed to force Ontarians into long term, 30 years forced payment of electrical bills by mortgaging the cost of monthly increases over those next 30 years. This would or will force Ontarians to pay into the power grid even if one wanted to go with LENR instead. That would make LENR an extra cost on top of old grid power. That might get someone interested in talking.

  • we want LENR Fusione Fredda

    Labelling is always so obtuse and underestimating; sometimes, those who label are finally resized by the labelled.
    After 27 years, I hope now is finally the time for ‘cold fusionists’!!

  • Jonnyb

    What we need is Rossi to employ Dr Thatlldo and get the stuff out

  • Glen

    Could Ni2Na02 be the secret sauce?

  • Rene

    Goodenough’s new battery is well described in the abstract to his paper. No magic need apply. It’s similar to a redox reaction where the same material can have different energy levels to create ionic movement and uses alkaline anode/cathodes with a glass electrolyte to stop dendritic formation which eventually shorts out a standard LiOn battery:

    The advent of a Li+ or Na+ glass electrolyte with a cation conductivity σi > 10−2 S cm−1 at 25 °C and a motional enthalpy ΔHm = 0.06 eV that is wet by a metallic lithium or sodium anode is used to develop a new strategy for an all-solid-state, rechargeable, metal-plating battery. During discharge, a cell plates the metal of an anode of high-energy Fermi level such as lithium or sodium onto a cathode current collector with a low-energy Fermi level; the voltage of the cell may be determined by a cathode redox center having an energy between the Fermi levels of the anode and that of the cathode current collector. This strategy is demonstrated with a solid electrolyte that not only is wet by the metallic anode, but also has a dielectric constant capable of creating a large electric-double-layer capacitance at the two electrode/electrolyte interfaces. The result is a safe, low-cost, lithium or sodium rechargeable battery of high energy density and long cycle life.

    I find the careful design and tuning of a lithium battery awe inspiring. It takes precise formulation to make LiON+ reactions vs anemic reactions:

    • Gerard McEk

      Thanks Rene! I like your explanation much more than the LENR juce, which is unlikely.

    • theBuckWheat

      Conventional automobile batteries use lead plates for both anode and cathode. Charging causes the positive plate to be coated with lead dioxide, but it is still a lead plate.

  • Pekka Janhunen

    Good-enough for government work.

  • simon gray

    Goodenough is a heralded name in the royal navy too. Maybe an aristocratic english family name? On the thrust of the article I guess ‘kind of like cold fusion’ merely meant ‘kind of like that impossible thing, the best example of which is cold fusion’ – unfortunately!

  • William D. Fleming

    Here’s an insightful article about Goodenough the man.

    • bachcole

      I’ve seen you around. I knew that I knew you. (:->) We think alike, as in, better than everyone else. (:->)

      Seriously, if someone takes their thoughts too seriously, they don’t think very well. You seem to take your thoughts lightly, and because of that you can work through and around them and see other people’s viewpoints better. I like that.

      • William D. Fleming

        Nice to know there’s a kindred spirit out there. Thanks for your encouragement!

        • WernerM

          William,. I finally have to comment about your photo that comes up with your posts. At the small scale of my phone, my first thought is of the Quaker Oats man from the oatmeal box. 😁 The white background behind your head and the brown above makes me chuckle every time.

          • William D. Fleming

            I’m so happy to be able to provide amusement.:-) I was lying in bed and the white is a pillow. The brown is a heart-pine headboard I made from salvaged lumber. I eat generic oatmeal but when I’m at the grocery store I’ll take note.

            Now I wanna see what you look like.

            • Matt Werner

              William, the top of my head resembles a cue ball so most pictures come out over exposed😁. I tried using my Google account to login. Doesn’t look like it’s going to pull in the picture. You are not missing much…

    • bachcole

      Goodenough seems like a most admirable person. Not many eggheads have such a good heart.

      • William D. Fleming

        For a dyslexic kid and poor student who had an unhappy childhood, I’d say he’s turned out well! Very inspirational IMO.

  • Ophelia Rump

    I wish these experts were educated enough in the appreciation of how obviously narrow and rigid they they have become when they say things like “‘If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it’s hard to find a polite word,’

    In other words a thousand brilliant discoveries and their discoverers may get the old heave ho out the door, Only the anointed need apply, but even the anointed need to be ready for the stink eye.

    That is not science, it is zealotry in the defense of inertia.

  • Andreas Moraitis

    A ten times higher energy density might allow the use of sodium in standard batteries. Since sodium is about 3.3 times heavier than lithium (the molar masses compared), the possible energy density is correspondingly lower. Nevertheless, the proposed technology could allow Na batteries that are still significantly better than today’s Li batteries. That would solve another problem since Na is both more abundant and cheaper than Li.