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The co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery has developed the first all-solid-state battery cells that could lead to safer, faster-charging and longer-lasting rechargeable batteries.

John Goodenough, professor in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, believes the development of a low-cost all-solid-state battery that is non-combustible with a high volumetric energy density and fast rates of charge and discharge could be used for handheld mobile devices, electric cars and stationary energy storage.

“Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted,” Goodenough said in a statement. “We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today's batteries.”

The new batteries have at least three times as much energy density as the lithium-ion batteries currently being used. A battery cell's energy density gives an electric vehicle its driving range, so a higher energy density means that a car can drive more miles between charges.

Currently, lithium-ion batteries use liquid electrolytes to transport the lithium ions between the anode and the cathode. 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.

However, the researchers relied on glass electrolytes that enable the use of an alkali-metal anode without the formation of dendrites.

The alkali-metal anode increases the energy density of a cathode and delivers a long cycle life. In experiments the cells have demonstrated more than 1,200 cycles with low cell resistance.

The solid-glass electrolytes can operate or have high conductivity at -20 degrees Celsius, which means the battery can perform well in a car in subzero degree weather.

The glass electrolytes also allow them to plate and strip alkali metals on both the cathode and the anode side without dendrites, which simplifies battery cell fabrication.

Another advantage is that the battery cells can be made from earth-friendly materials like lithium, sodium or potassium.

“The glass electrolytes allow for the substitution of low-cost sodium for lithium,” Cockrell School senior research fellow Maria Helena Braga, said in a statement. “Sodium is extracted from seawater that is widely available.

Goodenough and Braga now plan on advancing their battery-related research and are working on several related patents.

Goodenough is credited as being the first with Koichi Mizushima to demonstrate a rechargeable lithium cell with voltage in the 4 V range, which he did in 1980 at Oxford University.    

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