First of all, it’s time to debunk a myth about mobile phone batteries, which are currently lithium-ion based.
Do not let them run down to virtually drained before recharging them.
This merely degrades your battery’s life at a quicker pace. If practical, it’s better to recharge before it goes below 50%.
So says the father of lithium-ion batteries, John Goodenough. He’s citing simple physics, of course, and he’s spending the bulk of his time working to mitigate it.
In fact, he thinks he and researcher Helena Braga at the University of Texas have found a way.
Here’s what they’re talking about. A storage battery needs three elements:
- Electrodes to transfer energy,
- Electrolytes to serve as the transfer agent, and
- A separator to keep the electrodes separate.
The electrodes consist of two different conductive materials:
- An anode, which carries a negative electrical charge, and
- A cathode, which carries a positive electrical charge.
As shown in the graphic, the separator forces the charged ions and atoms to take different paths when they’re activated by a switch, such as a lightbulb or smartphone circuitry.
However, there’s an inherent glitch in this system. Electrolytes favor anodes during the charging process, causing a buildup of residue called dendrites. These can ultimately pierce the separator, short-circuiting the battery.
That can get ugly, as some unfortunate Samsung Galaxy Note 7 users discovered.
This issue would disappear if only the electrolyte was solid instead of liquid, and that’s the breakthrough.
Goodenough and Braga have announced they’ve done it using glass, of all things. They’ve presented a paper for peer review that has gobsmacked the physics community.
This development may not be on the level of Einstein’s relativity theories usurping many of Newton’s laws of absolutism, but the reaction is similar.
The fundamental question being asked is this:
How is Goodenough and Braga’s process storing any energy at all?
They’re using the same material — glass — on both sides, so how are the electrolytes producing both positive and negative reactions?
If further research proves the glass electrolyte to be viable — and really, getting 1200-cycle performance with low-cell resistance is more than that — it’s a world-changer. It means batteries would last at least 3-8 times longer.
Among other radical leaps forward in lifestyle, consider these:
- Electronic devices could become more powerful,
- Electric cars would have significantly longer range,
- Charging times would be lightning fast,
- Reliance on fossil fuels would be massively diminished almost overnight, and
- All this could be done for literal pennies; glass is beyond cheap to produce.
Goodenough shocked his peers with the lithium-ion battery, and now, both mankind and Mother Nature are pulling for him to have done it again.