Battery technology breakthroughs seem to be happening left and right these days, but when such a breakthrough comes from the inventor of lithium-ion batteries and is called “promising” by Alphabet’s very own Eric Schmidt, it’s hard not to take notice. 94-year-old John Goodenough, the man who conceptualized the lithium-ion battery cell type that’s commonly used in most consumer electronics these days, has worked with a special research team to come up with a possible basis for a new technology that’s completely solid-state, and made from glass. The batteries conceptualized in the white paper published by Goodenough and his team could potentially store huge amounts of energy with little space at low cost with little risk, and be made from sodium, a mineral that can be found in profuse amounts the world over.
According to the research paper detailing the inner workings of the battery, Goodenough and his team suggest that the battery could help to provide the kind of massive, low-cost energy storage that could revolutionize things like electric vehicles, solar and wind operations, and other large-scale power storage needs. The implications for the world of smartphones, tablets, wearables, and other such gadgetry are not difficult to see; a thin substrate made of glass that’s low-cost, takes up a small amount of space, and can store a huge amount of energy could mean more design freedom for manufacturers, more battery life for consumers, and much safer batteries all around; lithium-ion batteries, if compromised, are prone to a phenomenon called “thermal runaway” which can result in anything from battery failure and leakage to explosions.
For the moment, Goodenough and his team are working with prominent automakers, battery makers, and tech companies to try and get the battery technology off of the lab report page and into real units, on the road, in energy storehouses, and in other places where they could be safely tested before mass use. It should be noted that lithium-ion technology took about 11 years to be commercialized, and this new technology may end up being similar; new battery technologies normally take a long time just to get from the prototype stage to the manufacturing stage.