By Upasana Bhattacharjee
The co-inventor of lithium-ion batteries, John Goodenough has developed a new solid state battery that is reported to be three times better than lithium-ion batteries. His findings were published in Energy & Environmental Science journal in 2017. He claims that the new technology is significantly better in many respects, some of them due to its solid-state design. While still in the research stage, there is good reason to be optimistic about the technology.
Much needed change
Since the 80s, fields of consumer electronics and electric cars are dominated by lithium-ion batteries. But this technology is reaching its potential, illustrated by the spate of explosions that plague smartphone manufacturers. This is partly due to these batteries developing dendrites or metal strands that can cause short circuits. This possibility is eliminated by the new glass-based batteries as they use glass instead of liquid as an electrolyte.
The researchers have used fibreglass sheets as the electrolyte matrix and electroplated them with metallic sodium as the anode. The remaining cavities are packed with carbon. This makes them a far more secure option than lithium-ion batteries that have faced considerable criticism in the recent past.
Moreover, lithium is replaced by sodium as the key material in the new batteries. Since sodium is easily available and can be extracted from seawater, the new battery could be cheaper than lithium-ions. The solid-state batteries are set to perform better even at low temperatures because they have three times the energy density i.e., the amount of energy that can be stored in a given volume. Inevitably, allowing for an increase in range without increasing storage volume. Further, the new batteries will last longer than lithium-ion batteries and can charge faster.
How viable is it?
There is good reason to be sceptical of experimental technology because they often turn out to be commercially unviable. Despite that, the experienced research team behind the new technology gives reason to be optimistic. The remarkably better features also encourage researchers to continue pursuit in the field.
Companies like the French firm Bolloré use solid-state batteries, albeit with different designs, in their car sharing services for the US and Europe (BlueCar electric cars). While some companies use solid-state batteries, Goodenough’s design is set to take quite a few years before it can be used in commercial products. Companies such as QuantumScape and Sakti3 are planning to commercialise these batteries soon. For example, lithium-ion batteries weren’t launched commercially for a decade following their invention.
Reason for cheer
Despite the possibly long wait, the technology could go a long way in terms of clean energy alternatives like powering electric cars. Thus making them commercially viable and more accessible to fossil fuel driven vehicles. The increasing reliance on renewable and photovoltaic energy could spell out a different future for the human race. A future where environmentalism and sustainable development is accounted for in our industries, technology and economy.
Featured image source: Digital Trends
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