In June 2017, Professor Ernesto Julio Calvo won the DSM Bright Minds Challenge for Inquimae. Traditionally, lithium - the lifeblood of battery technology - is available through one source and one source only: extraction from giant salt lakes or ‘flats. It’s a very slow process that wastes millions of gallons of water while releasing sodium chloride and magnesium sulfate waste into the air and soil. Or at least, it was. Ernesto’s revolutionary electrochemical method uses solar power to extract the lithium…but with zero environmental impact.
For many years the battery industry had tried and failed to develop a safe rechargeable Lithium battery. It was Goodenough who realized that the problem could be solved by fabricating a discharged cell with an oxide cathode.
As a result his oxide cathodes and underlying fabrication strategy are now used in modern rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for almost all consumer electronics - and perhaps even the device you’re using to read this story now.
Now Goodenough is working on new battery technology that can transform our ability to harness the Sun’s energy and reduce our dependence on oil. In the quest to replace fossil fuels, he explains, “It’s important not to let your ideas get…fossilized.”