Physicist John Goodenough has established himself as one of the key figures behind the development of three distinct lithium battery chemistries.
"Look at all the Apple products that are powered at their core by
lithium-ion batteries," noted Kevin See, an industry analyst for Lux
Research. "The ability to pack all that energy into a small volume has
truly enabled a revolution in functionality."
Indeed, high energy
density has been a key to the success of lithium-ion, and it was
Goodenough's work that set the stage for it. Before his efforts,
researchers tried to use titanium sulfide with lithium, only to find it
grew dendrites and short-circuited. Similarly, nickel cadmium
chemistries showed promise but failed to operate at the necessary
"With lithium, I saw that they were going to need a
cathode that would give a much better voltage," Goodenough says. "So I
developed a lithium cobalt oxide, and that was the cathode that went in
the first lithium-ion battery."
Today, Goodenough still sees a
need for more energy density, especially if electric cars are to fulfill
their ultimate promise. That's why, as he approaches his 90th birthday
later this year, he continues to work on new chemistries.
now, lithium-ion batteries rely on a mature technology that doesn't
quite make it for the electric car market," Goodenough says. "That's why
we're in the process of writing up a new proposal.
“We want to show what can be done to move things forward." — Charles Murray is editor at UBM Tech's Design News.