After returning from my latest Free Energy Machine bust adventure I found this article while waiting at the Airport. It is a good read but raises a few red flags about the latest Lithium project. . It however pays tribute to one of the great scientists who deserves the accolades.
Scientist lauded by Welch Foundation for rethinking how world is powered
October 22, 2017 Updated: October 23, 2017 9:27am
Lower the world’s dependence on fossil fuels
John Goodenough doesn’t carry a cellphone – he doesn’t like interruptions at dinner – but his life’s work keeps them running.
The acclaimed Texas scientist’s research decades ago set the groundwork for the rechargeable lithium-ion batteries that power smartphones, cameras and tablets. Late in his career, the 95-year-old Goodenough hasn’t stopped trying to drive battery science forward.
He and colleague Maria Helena Braga have developed a solid glass electrolyte, creating a new kind of battery cell that could transform electric cars and lower the world’s dependence on fossil fuels.
His accolades keep coming. He’s received several awards recognizing his life’s achievements, including the Draper Prize from the National Academy of Engineering and the National Medal of Science. Alphabet Inc. executive chairman Eric Schmidt cheered the latest development as “promising.”
This week, Houston’s Welch Foundation will recognize the University of Texas at Austin engineering professor with the $500,000 Robert A. Welch Award in chemistry.
His most recent innovation comes at a crucial time. Scientists must solve the “global problem” of finding new energy sources for our world’s future survival, he said.”We have to find a way to wean the dependence of modern society from the energy stored in our fossil fuels,” he said. “Period. Simple.”
Feeling behind in school wasn’t new for Goodenough when he started his physics Ph.D. at the University of Chicago. As a child, his dyslexia went un diagnosed. but it still stung when, after serving in World War II, an administrator told him he wouldn’t make it as a physicist because he had started too late. He was in his 20s.
From U Chicago, he worked in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, and he was considering a move to Iran to work in energy when Oxford University asked him to lead its inorganic chemistry lab.
In a battery, electrons move from the anode, a negative pole of the battery, to the positively charged cathode through a circuit, powering a device. An electrolyte between these poles forces electrons into the circuit. The chemical reaction has to be reversible to create a rechargeable battery.
Goodenough’s team at Oxford made a lithium cobalt oxide cathode that would create a high density of stored energy – a major development. It was stable, too.
Battery companies in England and America scoffed, Goodenough recalled. But Japan’s companies took note. That cathode helped form the lithium-ion battery, which Sony soon would use to create mobile phones and camcorders.
“The wireless revolution took off,” he said. Soon, the rechargeable batteries were everywhere.
“Give the electrical engineers some credit for the fact that you have tablets and this, that and the other,” he said. “It’s extraordinary how much information is in there. I’m delighted it’s improving the communications between the people of the world.”
Limitations, however, remained. Batteries have finite numbers of cycles before they must be replaced. Elon Musk’s Tesla cars are “beautiful,” Goodenough said, but they’re expensive, in part because their batteries fade.
Buzz about batteries
Facing a meager retirement in England, Goodenough jumped to UT-Austin in 1986 when the university extended an offer. He stayed curious about batteries and would later become aware of Braga’s work at the University of Porto in Portugal.
Braga, also a physicist, knew Goodenough’s work well, though they are separated in age by decades. Years before they met, she cited a chapter he wrote in a presentation. “I didn’t know him, of course,” she recalled. “I never thought I would.”
In Portugal, Braga saw through her own research that a solid electrolyte – rather than the liquid electrolyte used in the lithium-ion batteries – conducted ions well if the atoms were not locked into specific positions. A special glass made that possible.
The implications were soon clear: The glass was a strong ionic material that allowed for a long life cycle in some battery cells. “This cell is likely different … from what you see in the market,” Braga said.
A venture capitalist in technology reached out to Braga after her first paper on the subject was published. He asked what team she’d like to join so that another university could confirm her results.
“Well, Professor Goodenough’s, of course,” Braga responded, thinking it was unlikely.
Goodenough, meanwhile, had been considering the possibilities with solid electrolytes, and when the two met on UT-Austin’s campus, he was intrigued. Braga eventually took a leave of absence from the University of Porto to move to Texas, where they started working with lithium metal to make coin cells.
The team has already started filing patents, and Goodenough said it may soon announce a new breakthrough, though he won’t reveal the details.
Braga says the two aren’t that different, though they are nearly 50 years apart in age. Braga, as a woman in science, feels she needs to work harder for opportunities and recognition. Goodenough, with his dyslexia, felt the same as a young scientist.
Despite the initial buzz over their batteries, some have questioned their results.
In one essay, Princeton University engineering professor Daniel Steingart called the premise of the reaction “impossible.” He wondered if energy was truly being released by the battery and said the idea seemed to “violate key concepts in thermodynamics, namely the conservation of energy.”
Goodenough said his team has written a rebuttal that has yet to be published. Braga countered with a derivation of the first law of thermodynamics as it relates to their work.
The batteries work, Braga says, and that speaks for itself. They light LEDs – one light in her home office in Portugal has not gone out in two years, she said – and keep watches ticking.
“When you have something that’s completely revolutionary, a completely new concept – they don’t know what to do with it,” Goodenough said. “I believe that we’re going to be able to get you a battery that can power an electric car, that’s safe, low cost and with the energy density you need to be able to get a decent drive.
“It only takes one step at a time. One step at a time.”
‘For good and for evil’
Goodenough’s office – steps away from the batteries lab in Austin – is packed with gifts from researchers around the globe. There’s a still-corked bottle of champagne. A box of green tea. An accumulation from a lifetime of work.
To his left hangs a whiteboard scratched hundreds of times over with equations and scribbles once worth remembering. A red, white and black print of Jesus and his disciples hangs behind his desk, and on a nearby shelf, he’s placed photos of art depicting God creating Adam from the Chartres Cathedral in France.
Goodenough struggled with faith as a child, but his religious identity formed over time. He believes science is not in conflict with two lessons from the Christian faith.
First: Love thy neighbor as thyself.
Second: Love the lord thy God with all your mind and strength.
“Technology is morally neutral – you can use it for good and for evil,” he said. “You can use it to explode bombs under somebody’s vehicle. You can use it to steal a bank account. As scientists, we do the best we can to provide something for society. But if society cannot make the moral decisions that are necessary, they only use it to destroy themselves.”
He pauses.”The chainsaw was a very good idea, but they cut down all the forests in the world.”
And again, this time with a sharp cackle.
“Because people want to make money. Money’s not what it’s all about. Survival should be what it’s all about. We should show respect for the planet earth.”
The Welch Foundation award is the latest for Goodenough, who has earned accolades including the National Medal of Science.
It’s a notable recognition of his work. The award can go to any scientist worldwide.
Welch Foundation Board of Directors chair Charles Tate said Goodenough’s advancements over his lifetime significantly moved the global body of knowledge forward.
“His discoveries entail a body of knowledge far beyond basic chemistry,” he said.
Goodenough says he plans to give the prize money to UT-Austin to invest in equipment and fund research positions.
He hopes to celebrate his 100th birthday at the state’s public flagship.”I would like to continue working as long as I can,” he said. “It’s not for me to decide when I’m going to be taken.”