back to article Li-ion king Goodenough creates battery he says really is... good enough

A team led by John Goodenough, the man who played a key role in creating the lithium-ion battery, thinks it has cracked a replacement. Goodenough, 94, and his merry band at the University of Texas have developed a solid-state battery that has three times the energy storage of a similarly sized li-ion power pack, can handle …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Finally, and most importantly for some purposes, the batteries won't catch fire.

    Sodium is sodium. It does catch fire in contact with water. So it depends just how whet is the environment when you whack it.

    Granted, it may be much more difficult for it to catch fire, but there will be circumstances when it will.

    1. Paul

      Not sure if trolling, but quite possibly they're using the often abused shorthand of saying sodium instead of sodium ions; the latter don't catch fire

    2. Arctic fox

      "It does catch fire in contact with water."

      Indeed it does. However, as is implicit in your opening comment, you would have to subject the battery container to significant damage under wet conditions before you had a serious problem. Lithium based batteries of the current generation are inherently significantly more vulnerable. Furthermore sodium is available in gigantic amounts from seawater and would be much much cheaper than lithium. The degree of environmental damage that lithium extraction causes (blowing up mountainsides and so on) would also be drastically reduced. I sincerely hope that this actually turns out to be something that comes to market.

      1. Daedalus

        Re: "It does catch fire in contact with water."

        The sodium doesn't catch fire. It's the hydrogen generated in the reaction with water that catches fire, and then only if the conditions are right. The reaction with potassium is more violent and typically results in a flame, plus an explosion when a ball of hydroxide forms with some reacting metal inside still generating hydrogen.

        However if the sodium is in the form of a thin layer you'd get a lot of hydrogen and heat very quickly on contact with water. Whether you'd get a flame is debatable, but even so it could ruin your day.

        1. Danny 14

          Re: "It does catch fire in contact with water."

          @elfo74 bolivia doesnt now but once did. The lithium comes from huge salt flats (largest in the world). They have huge reserves of lithium.

    3. Chemist

      "Sodium is sodium. It does catch fire in contact with water."

      It's also highly flammable ( and hard to extinguish) in air given a modest ignition source

      In answer to another in this thread - sodium ions : I don't think so - where would the high energy density come from ?

      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        The article only said sodium *could* be substituted for lithium, so if this new tech pans out it might be a case of choosing cheap or high density as the situation demands.

        BTW, Lithium extraction is done by removing salts from water, not blowing up mountainsides. It does have ecological impacts if done poorly, but can bring money to poor places such as Bolivia and, um, Cornwall.

        1. Elfo74

          "BTW, Lithium extraction is done by removing salts from water, not blowing up mountainsides. It does have ecological impacts if done poorly, but can bring money to poor places such as Bolivia"

          I'm a bit hazy on my high-school geography, but I believe Bolivia doesn't have access to musch see water...

          1. Toni the terrible Bronze badge

            lakes and ponds?

          2. DDSCOTT

            I believe it usually comes from underground waters sources that have a semi-high concentration of lithium salt.

        2. Isitari

          It's called electrolysis ;)

      2. Isitari

        It's all ions and has been for a long time. You're misunderstanding how a battery works.

    4. Isitari

      They don't use pure alkali metals in batteries at all. It's in compound form or as an electrolyte.

    5. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Lithium Ion batteries have a flammable electrolyte that bursts through the safety enclosure and sets everything on fire, then there's a hot sparking core to make sure the fire can't be put out. A glass electrolyte battery could safely hold much more power if it calmly fails as a blob of yellow-hot sparking goo. A bit of glass weave and sheet metal can hold that.

      I assume that this technology is the standard 3 to ∞ years away from mass production.

  2. n0r0imusha


    is that a WinXP screensaver in the background ?

    1. Joe Werner Silver badge

      Re: background

      Well, it is more modern than what was (10y ago or so...) my PhD supervisor's favourite program for typesetting: exp. That was always a major hassle to get this to run (on any "modern" machine and OS, more recent than Win95), also so that one could export his "slides" (etc.) to something in a more... eh... common format (yes, print to a file works in principle, but this DOS program was a bit bitchy when it came to printer drivers).

    2. King Jack

      Re: background

      He is doing important research and does not want his computer phoning home and giving his secrets to M$.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: background

      I decomm'd our last 98 machine just last year.

      It was hooked directly into a legacy bit of kit by a serial cable. Been working fine since 98, so why replace?

      It was only when we killed off the main bit of kit did we get rid of it.

      If it ain't broke.

      1. Baldrickk

        Re: background

        Still have an Archimedes in the lab at work - it does vital work running test suites.

        If it ain't broke, hope it stays that way as any replacement will have to be recreated from scratch ;)

        1. Danny 14

          Re: background

          We have a win2k machine (and 2 mothballed reserves) running a boiler system. Very simple raid1 but IDE drives hence the reserves. Obviously we took it off the network a long time ago.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Sodium is sodium. It does catch fire in contact with water."

    In contact with water it also produces hydrogen as well as the heat and sparks. Mix the hydrogen with air in a confined space - light with reaction's spark - explosion.

    In my school days two junior chemistry masters each managed to destroy a large glass pneumatic trough with a loud bang. The pea sized lump of fizzing sodium wasn't all consumed by that point.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      The pea sized lump of fizzing sodium...

      I recall a chemistry master trying to do exactly that. Unfortunately, while attempting to pare said pea-sized lump from a big stick of sodium, the stick slipped from his tongs and fell into said large glass trough.

      We knew the loud bang was coming, the fact that his face went white and he hit the deck behind the bench while shouting "GET DOWN!" was a bit of a clue.

      The trough was destroyed and the reinforced glass screen in a sturdy iron frame between us and it was pretty much buggered too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "The trough was destroyed [...]"

        Our troughs split neatly into three pieces: two semicircular sides and a bottom. In both cases the newly appointed junior masters had tried the experiment already - but had failed to show that the water then changed the colour of the litmus paper. So they tried a bigger lump. This time the little mesh "tea-strainer" tool started sparking - then kaboom.

        When it happened the second time we were next door to the junior lab. We heard the bang - followed by a loud cheer - and deja vu told us what had happened.

        No protective screen sin those days. One favourite demonstration was to fill a bottle with gas - then light it with a wood spill. The class were sent to line the sides of the lab - and the blinds drawn. The junior chemistry master then wrapped his lab coat round the bottle - aimed it down the room - lit it. The flame traversed the length of the room.

        On another occasion he decided to show us the thermite reaction. For this we went onto the lawn outside the lab. The chemicals were made into volcano shaped pile and a strip of magnesium inserted at the top as an ignition fuse. However as it was a windy day the class was formed into protective circle while the master tried to light the fuse with a match. Each time a lit match was applied to the fuse - the boys skittered away in nervous anticipation and the wind blew the match out. Eventually the master persuaded us to stay in position until the magnesium ignited. A good show - although the caretaker was probably not too pleased with the bald patch on the lawn.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          On another occasion he decided to show us the thermite reaction.

          Evidently back in the days of real chemistry. These days he'd be arrested by car loads of armed goons obsessed with the idea that he's a terrorist.

          1. Ivan Headache

            I can't remember if it was a chemmy lesson or physics but..

            as we entered the lab the teacher had a large coffee tin (catering Nescafe size) with a hole in the lid from which a bright yellow flame about 8 or 9 cm high was burning.

            He asked us all to gather round while expained the set up. The tin also had a hole in the bottom. It was sitting on a tripod (without a gauze mat) and under the tripd was a bunsen burner with its air-ring closed.

            He said that the gas was going into the tin but it wouldn't burn until it came out of the top hole and mixed with the air. He went on to say that if he turned the gas tap off the flame would continue to burn in its lazy way as air came in through the hole in the bottom of the can to replace the gas going out of the top.

            He had his spiel worked out so that as he said "mixes to form an explosive cond......" there was an almighty bang and the lid of the tin shot up and hit the ceiling about 7 metres above us (old school - very high ceilings).

            It was one of those lessons you never forget.

            Now was it the physics or chemmy lab?

            1. Isitari

              That would be chemistry, we still do that experiment now. Though it is damn hard getting hold of the Nescafe tins that are great for this.

              1. ridley

                Yep great fun, but it is Physics ;-)

                I usually sell them some spiel about it not working sometimes (it takes a long time before it goes boom), after a few minutes I announce that it hasn't worked and we need to do some work. So I start dictating something for them to write in their books. Several mimutes later......BOOM (and no doubt several soiled pairs of underwear).

                Always makes me laugh. Twice. Once at the time and once when I am marking their books and see the abrupt twitch in their writing.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  "Yep great fun, but it is Physics"

                  Another simple physics demonstration was to heat an iron bar that was fixed at one end - while the other was secured by a pin through it. At a critical point of the bar's expansion the pin would shear with a small bang.

                  It was fun chasing mercury beads round the bench top when doing density experiments. We also saw that although it is a liquid it is not "wet" - as demonstrated by its convex meniscus.

                2. Isitari

                  Depends what you're trying to show. If it's pressure then yes it's Physics but I like the the collapsing can for that one as the students can do it. I use the exploding for combustion :P, a bit more explosive ^^.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                "Though it is damn hard getting hold of the Nescafe tins that are great for this."

                IIRC we used Golden Syrup cans.

                One demonstration has stayed in my mind since the 1960s. A special piece of glassware shaped like a bottle with a glass pipe coming up through the bottom. The top outlet was also a pipe. Gas was fed into the bottle.

                The idea was to light the gas coming out at the top o produce a flame - which was obvious. The telling point was also igniting air being introduced by the bottom pipe - showing that a flame of air could burn in gas too.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  A one gallon rectangular can would be heated with a small amount of water in it until it steamed. Then the top was screwed on - and the heat removed. As the steam condensed the can buckled under atmospheric pressure. That was mind blowing when one previously thought of the presence of the atmosphere as nothing more than the effects of wind.

                  A beaker of ether had air bubbled through it so that the latent heat of evaporation would freeze the water in the dish in which it stood. The ether vapour just mixed with the air in the lab. It was only in A Level Organic Chemistry that we saw the accident of an invisible ether vapour trail on the desk top suddenly creating a flash flame between two people's experiments.

                  Those were the days when secondary school Physics and Chemistry both involved pupils doing practical experiments for much of the time.

                  1. Charles 9

                    Mr. Wizard sped up the process by pouring cold water on the container.

                  2. J P

                    My father told me the tale of a junior physics master who caused a degree of comment by shooting a 6th former in the leg.

                    It was all part of an experiment to use light beams as triggers for a timing device to establish the speed of an air-rifle pellet. The air-rifle was clamped in place, and lined up to shoot across the two light beams (one start, one stop) and then flatten itself harmlessly against a protective barrier. Normally the experiment was carried out by the head of physics, but he was away, so the "new boy" covering the lesson took his place.

                    He duly assembled all the equipment, including barrier, and started the lesson. At the appointed moment he pulled the string which actuated the air-rifle trigger, and the pellet exited the barrel, passed through the first beam (starting the timer), passed through the second beam (stopping the timer), passed through the sheet of stiff card (which the junior master had used instead of the "lab-stool on its side with 4" of newspaper wadded onto the seat" favoured by the head of physics), passed through the glass of the lab window, and finally came to rest in the leg of a passing student.

                    It says a lot for the values of the time that the reason Dad thought this worthy of comment was that by the time I attended the same school, said junior master was himself Head of Physics, rather than ruing the day he got drummed out of the teaching profession for shooting pupils.

                    (Other experiments which I was told about mostly so I *wouldn't* repeat them were:

                    Which wins - the convector heater or the fridge? and

                    Who operates at a higher pressure - the Gas board or the Water board? (Apparently the answer was the Water board, as established by one inquisitive pupil connecting the gas tap to the water tap with a length of rubber tube and opening both to Full. It cost quite a lot of money to have the gas system drained down, as well as a rather pointed letter to the Headmaster).)

                    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                      "Apparently the answer was the Water board"

                      After a couple of such incidents, the gas feed into every lab at my school was piped through a (hefty) glass miniature gasometer in the corner of each lab - making it pretty obvious when things were running backwards and allowing a level-triggered shutoff circuit to be wired in parallel to the emergency shutoff solenoid system which was fitted at the same time.

                      It was cheaper than allowing it to happen a third time.

        2. Isitari

          I regularly do the thermite reaction inside, no issue at all apart from occasionally burning the ceiling.

    2. PNGuinn

      The pea sized lump of fizzing sodium wasn't all consumed by that point.

      Aww, c'mon.

      Potassium's much more fun. The flame's prettier too ...

      We need a purple flame icon. Moytle.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "two junior chemistry masters each managed to destroy a large glass pneumatic trough with a loud bang"


      One of my chemistry teachers managed to split the bottom of the school pool. After 20 years of failed repair attempts it got paved over and turned into a cycle park.

  4. Drone Pilot

    When can I get it?

    So many battery "inventions" the last 6-12 months - so few showing up on the shelves :(

    1. Olius

      Re: When can I get it?

      It can take a while to get to market, give it time :-)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: When can I get it?: 2025

      Actually, there's been a phenomenal amount of R&D going on for years now, initially driven by phone and tablet needs, not looking at cars and grid scale storage. Last year for which I saw data, the ten largest patentees of battery technology had pocketed over 40,000 patents between them. Obviously that doesn't mean the patents are worth anything, just an indicator of how much research is and has been underway.

      Sadly, it's typically seven years from breakthrough in the lab to mass market product, because the lab breakthrough merely shows that something works there. At that point the technology doesn't have any supply chain, any manufacturing experience, or any products designed around them, and these take time to get in place (IP legal work, design work, contractual legals, safety testing & certifcation, manufacturing construction, battery manufacture and device manufacture and marketing). I anything, seven years is incredibly fast....

      Even if that could be done in a third of the time, no sane person would risk a mass roll out of a product not proven at smaller scale - even if the battery is provably safe, there's huge commercial risks of real world durability, performance and economics. And sadly there's typically another seven to ten years to completely optimise a given chemistry or major tech break through. So at launch a new battery chemistry will typically be at around 40% of its theoretical potential (based on chemistry), but that can be steadily increased over time, and if you're lucky and invest enough in R&D, you might get that to 80% before something else comes along to replace it.

      All of which assumes no technology or cost roadblocks are discovered on the journey to commercialisation, and that other more promising technologies don't appear that research funders choose to back instead.

      1. DropBear

        Re: When can I get it?: 2025

        Yes, well, it's readily apparent by now that in spite of all the endless breakthrough hype LiPo battery developers will have roughly all the way until the f#$%ing heat death of the universe to get to that 80%. No need to rush.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: When can I get it?: 2025

          No need to rush.

          Oh there is.

          We're reading here about the lab stuff. There's lots that is in between lab and product development, and could be in your hands in a couple of years. One example - lithium sulphur batteries are fairly well developed, have much better specific energy density than conventional lithium chemistries, and are being proven in high value applications as we speak - the main challenge is that for mainstream (=low value) applications they need to reduce the degradation rate. We have managed that with Li-ion, no reason to expect that other chemistries won't follow suit, although LiS looks like only a candidate for transport and static batteries, not for mobile devices.

  5. frank ly

    Glass Electrolyte

    I have a feeling that this isn't glass as most people understand the word. It's probably some kind of micro-porous vitreous matrix that allows ions to easily migrate through it.

    Does anyone know the details?

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Glass Electrolyte

      Probably not. It's probably "glass" in the sense of a supercooled liquid with no long range structure, rather than the usual soda-lime you have sitting in most people's windows.

      Sodium ions do move in glass, a fact used in "Anodic bonding" AKA The Mallory Process (invented at Mallory, the company behind Duracell batteries, in the late 60's)

      However that needs c400c and 100s of volts to get the Sodium ions moving

      The link was unhelpful. I guess for any one more interested they need to check Dr Braga's resume at the University of Porto in Portugal.

    2. Steve K

      Re: Glass Electrolyte

      Glass electrolytes are used in modern car batteries - I believe they are better suited to the frequent load demands of Stop/Start systems than the traditional lead/acid ones.

      1. Steve K

        Re: Glass Electrolyte

        Sorry - didn't mean glass electrolyte there - at least not at room temperature.....

        I meant AGM batteries where a glass matrix contains the electrolyte - a bit like a sponge

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    94 years ..

    It appears I'm not alone in my desire to never really retire :). I rather like what I do - all I'd change is having more holidays to travel a bit further (I'm not one to lie on the beach - I'd do that 2 days max before I get bored :) ).

    1. 0laf Silver badge

      Re: 94 years ..


      94 and still knocking out useful research.

      Fair play to you sir!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: 94 years ..

        It has been said that advances in most sciences are by older people because of the large amount of base knowledge they have to acquire first. Mathematicians are apparently the exception.

        However - being in a specific field for a long time can make one blinkered to other disruptive possibilities.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: 94 years ..

          Yes. But don't forget Clarke's three laws:-

          1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

          2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

          3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

          It's also been said that much progress has only occurred because the older people at the top of the hierarchy who oppose new ideas have retired, allowing younger people with "crazy ideas that won't work" to take over.

          1. johnnybee

            Re: 94 years ..

            3 leads to Gehm's corollary:

            - Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced

            1. Captain DaFt

              Re: 94 years ..

              And then there's Obby's Rebuttal:

              "Any inability to distinguish Technology from magic is a symptom of a bad education system."

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 94 years ..

          I would said that big advances in most sciences are made by relatively young people - not only mathematicians. Experience may play different roles, still important in continuous improvements, albeit at smaller paces.

          1. nijam Silver badge

            Re: 94 years ..

            > I would said that big advances in most sciences are made by relatively young people...

            ... but then the paper is published with their supervisor's name as author...

  7. M7S

    He does look a bit like

    Professor Proton

    1. Colin Wilson 2

      Re: He does look a bit like

      I was thinking more Stanley Unwin

      Glass Electrolipoles any one?

    2. Scroticus Canis

      Re: He does look a bit like

      Professor Farnsworth.

      Where's the Bender icon?

  8. Milton

    The happy sceptic ...

    ... is aware that battery tech that doesn't suck has been just a few years away for several decades, rather like fusion power, true AI, colonisation and mining of the Solar System—and the flying car I have felt is due to me ever since I watched Gerry Anderson's TV serials in the 60s.

    That said, I'm obviously not the only one who is really encouraged by the fact that Prof Goodenough is apparently still doing valuable work at 94. We should all be so smart and so lucky. It's refreshing to be reminded that, for every toxic waste of oxygen like a Trump, the world includes many more worthwhile, admirable human beings like the Prof.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    already 5 years in the making:

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      In related research there's the ORNL solid state 10,000 cycle Li-Ion battery.

      As you'll see (and as commented in that link), one of the biggest problems is maintaining efficiency with higher charge/discharge rates. A lot of the promising tech falls over badly on this point and that's where major delays to market occur trying to fix it.

  10. James 51

    Sounds like the Tesla wall batteries might be using Na in two or three generations. If the technology is that much cheaper, it won't need to use second hand batteries either.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Sounds like the Tesla wall batteries might be using Na in two or three generations.

      Don't bet on any technology unless you're a gambler! There's no magic bullets, and the choice of battery in the Tesla Powerwall is driven by Tesla's needs in automotive applications, rather than the optimal tech for static batteries. Considerations of duty cycling, maximum power, operating conditions, mass and density, charge rate all differ.

      Re-use of automotive batteries is worthy of consideration because static batteries have a charmed life compared to the brutal demands of traction use, so a cell that is no longer suitable for vehicle use may still have decades of life in a static array. The consideration is cost of alternative disposal options for the end of life traction batteries. I've seen well argued articles conclude that the incremental cost of disassembly, test and repurposing of traction batteries will be too costly to justify the effort as and when high volume cell recycling is available, and I think that's probably right - but we're not there yet.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


          "Oh dear, you have an ad blocker, feck off!"

          Actually, I don't have an ad-blocker. I only have NoScript. I wonder if they collate stats on who whitelists and continues on to the site and how many, like me, just leave. And does anyone publish those stats.

          1. Charles 9

            The problem with the tech is that it's not very energy-dense. Thus why you have to use honking big containers. It's rather cumbersome for anything below distribution-level storage. It's also rather temperature-sensitive and not very useful in potentially-cold climates (below 10°C) because you suffer crystallization that cold.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        "I've seen well argued articles conclude that the incremental cost of disassembly, test and repurposing of traction batteries will be too costly to justify the effort"

        That depends whether the traction battery packs are designed for reuse from the outset(*) - and Tesla's ones are.

        (*) That can mean "designed to be easily dismantled" or "designed to be reused as a module" - which are both true in the Tesla case. You can already buy used modules for reasonable prices if you want to make your own power wall.

  11. Christoph

    This could be extremely important simply because it doesn't use Lithium. Renewable energy tends to be intermittent, and needs lots of energy storage. The amount needed to make a real difference is a bit more than the available Lithium. But we are not going to run out of Sodium!

    However it may be a long time before these are generally available. Even if they don't catch fire so easily, if they store three times as much energy then there is three times as much energy to escape if something goes wrong. So there needs to be a lot of work done making sure they are safe. For instance what happens if the terminals are shorted together? Someone might be able to make a moderately powerful bomb by deliberately shorting out a large battery.

    1. Charles 9

      Excuse me, but can't they get lithium from seawater, too?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "Here at El Reg we've seen far too many stories about battery advances that never pan out. "

    So here's the latest one to keep that trend going.

  13. D@v3

    I can hear the conversation already....

    engineer - we have these new batteries that have three times the energy storage of a similarly sized li-ion power pack, can handle …

    designer - great, we can make the battery for out device three times smaller.........

    1. EnviableOne

      Re: I can hear the conversation already....

      welcome to your new Phone it is now the weight of a feather and 2mm thick

    2. Bluto Nash

      Re: I can hear the conversation already....

      Wouldn't that be "we can make the battery for our device one third the size?" One would think that making it ONE time smaller would make it disappear...

      1. Segorian

        Re: I can hear the conversation already....

        Welcome to the Logical Club! Membership eligibility is limited to somewhat less than 1 per cent of the human race, so you are in select company.

  14. Isitari

    Physics / Chemistry teacher

    I regularly drop in the first 3 period group 1 alkali metals into water as the students have to know about the reactivity series, patterns in group 1 etc.

    Lithium reacts pretty slowly with water compared to the other alkali metals even if you drop large quantities in. It releases hydrogen as all the alkali metals do on contact with water, fizzes on top of the water as the hydrogen creates a bubble layer underneath it. Sodium reacts in a pretty similar way except it's a little more vigorous, the amount you add does have an impact but it's fairly negligible (unless you drop hundreds of grams in!). Now, Potassium on the other hand even a 1-2cm3 size block will get you lovely lilac fireworks everywhere, large amounts will destroy the container.

    This is of course all assuming you're using cold water, using hot water or an acid will create far more violent reactions.

    Ironically this discussion is null and void as they don't use pure lithium in batteries, the lithium is the electrolyte (i.e. ions) and in a compound form on one of the electrodes. Though it would be interesting if they did start using pure but I don't see the benefit of it.

  15. Isitari

    A lot of people seem to be rather confused over Lithium based batteries.

    1. None of the batteries that you recharge use pure group 1 metals (lithium, sodium etc).

    2. The reserves of lithium are pretty massive even without extra finds around the world 'a 2011 study by researchers from the University of Michigan and Ford Motor Company found sufficient resources to support global demand until 2100, including the lithium required for the potential widespread transportation use.'

    3. The reasons why batteries once damaged catch fire is because of the sheer energy density they operate at, almost any material that undergoes a runaway thermal reaction like that will catch fire.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "1. None of the batteries that you recharge use pure group 1 metals (lithium, sodium etc)."

      As a FYI:

      Overcharged li-ion batteries can form metallic lithium deposits inside the case. This may not catch fire immediately but once formed it usually doesn't go back into the cell chemistry. Dendrites of the stuff have been known to pierce insulators as the cells flex or swell and act as trigger points for fires as well as contributing to a fire's ferocity.

      "Dead" battery packs left on a shelf for months/years can also swell up and catch fire occasionally, with metallic lithium having been detected in a number of swelling batteries.

      Treat Li-ion packs with care. I know a lot of people just chuck 'em in a drawer or on a shelf in the workshop to gather dust - this may prove to be a bad idea (at the very least, keep them in a fire-resistant container)

  16. Frumious Bandersnatch

    Mr. Goodenough

    Enemy of the Good...

    I think that my nominative determinism circuit just suffered a paradox. Still, better batteries--way hey! Have a pint on me.

  17. J. Cook Silver badge

    Better batteries...

    Sitting on my desk right now is a 'cheap' (~$80 USD) car jump battery pack sold by an import tool company infamous in the US for 'cheap' tools that are good in a pinch, but have widely variable quality control standards.

    It's using a Lithium iron phosphate (LiFePO4) battery pack, and I just jump-started a 4 cylinder ford ranger truck with it. It's not much larger than a hardcover novel in it's travel case, and it works quite nicely. It's also much lighter then the older style portable jump kits that use a lead-acid battery.

    Even five years ago, something like this either didn't exist, or was four or five times the cost. I love living in the future.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Better batteries...

      "I just jump-started a 4 cylinder ford ranger truck"

      It must be 30 years since I last had a vehicle that was in such a state I had to jump or bump start it.

      "I love living in the future."

      Yep, the chances of needing a jump/bump start are almost nil for most of us. :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Better batteries...

        Uses BIG fuck off capacitors and buck converters.

        You can start your car from your phone battery!!

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Better batteries...

        "It must be 30 years since I last had a vehicle that was in such a state I had to jump or bump start it."

        For me it was last week, but that was specifically because I left an interior light on for 3 days. (DOH!)

  18. Bluto Nash

    Checking the picture of the Prof

    Damned if it doesn't look like he both enjoys his work and is clearly in possession of his senses, but is also having fun doing it.

    Wouldn't put playing a prank past him, either. Icon for him.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's known that alkali metal elements are active metals. In nature, alkali metal is only found in the salt, never in the form of simple form. Thus, the alkali metal is usually stored in mineral oil or kerosene to prevent reaction with air or water. The alkali metal itself is a silver-white metal with a small density, low melting point and boiling point. It has a high reactivity under the standard conditions and it's easy to lose valence electrons to form a positively charged cation. With soft texture, it can be cut by a knife easily. When the section is exposed to the air and oxygen, the reaction will start quickly and fades.

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