UT professor, co-inventor of lithium-ion battery develops groundbreaking technology

Kevin Dural

John Goodenough, UT electrical engineering professor and co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery, has helped  create a more efficient, solid-based battery. 

Goodenough headed a team of electrical engineers to develop this new battery, which he said will be able to last longer on shorter charging time. The new battery is glass-based, solid and doesn’t form dendrites — meaning there is less chance of short circuits and flames.

Goodenough, currently 94 years old, said this new development seeks to correct flaws in lithium-ion battery he invented in the 1980s. The lithium-ion batteries have a tendency to form dendrites, whiskers that emerge after use and can cause short circuits, fires and limit how fast they can be charged.

“The old battery is prone to (bursting into) flames because it uses liquid electrolyte and has a tendency to form dendrites,” Goodenough said. 

Goodenough said the new solid-based battery uses glass technology and is safer, cheaper and can hold more charge. He said one of his material science senior fellows, Maria Braga, brought him a type of glass that conducts lithium ions just as well as a regular battery would.

“The most important thing is that the capacity to store energy can be much bigger than in a traditional cell,” Braga said. 

She said this means the size of a battery may no longer determine its power levels. For instance, she said small electronics such as smart watches may not lose charge and die as quickly as they do today.

Goodenough said that the next step is to determine how to apply this technology to large scale machines such as cars or planes.

“The manufacturers are going to have to scale this up to a larger-sized battery rather than a single cell,” Goodenough said. “What problems are going to accompany this, we don’t know yet.”

Goodenough was presented National Medal of Science, the highest STEM award presented to a civilian, by Barack Obama in 2011.

When it comes to work, Goodenough said he isn’t done inventing yet, and that he still has time to keep creating.

Braga said that in addition to the thrill of inventing new technologies, she is inspired by Goodenough’s attitude.  

“He’s 94, and he’s still learning just like the rest of us,” she said.