|Professor John Goodenough / Courtesy of SK Innovation|
By Nam Hyun-woo
SK Innovation said Thursday it will develop next-generation battery technology with professor John Goodenough, a 2019 Nobel laureate in chemistry also known as a pioneer of lithium-ion batteries.
Together with Hadi Khani at the University of Texas, Goodenough will work on developing a gel-polymer electrolyte for a lithium metal battery, which is expected to provide a higher-energy density and greater safety at a competitive cost.
"Together with SK Innovation, I hope we can open the next-generation battery era," Goodenough was quoted as saying to SK Innovation.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently considered to be the most effective for electric vehicles (EVs). However, they have their limits in increasing energy density, which is necessary to extend the travel range of EVs as well as creating smaller and lighter batteries.
Industry officials said the current lithium-ion chemistry has an energy density limit of 800 watt-hours per liter. To deliver a battery with 1,000 watt-hours per liter, a lithium metal anode and solid-state electrolyte is viewed as a promising solution, the company said.
To build an all-solid lithium-metal battery, however, developers have to overcome dendrite growth, which refers to tiny needle-like structures plaguing lithium batteries resulting in energy loss and malfunctions.
SK Innovation said Goodenough and Khani plan to develop a gel-polymer electrolyte system which will suppress dendrite growth by transporting lithium ions evenly while filtering undesired ions.
"We are delighted to announce that SK Innovation and professor Goodenough's group are jointly preparing for the next-generation battery era," SK Innovation Chief Technology Officer Lee Seong-jun said. "SK Innovation believes this will be a meaningful step on our journey to deliver an innovative lithium-metal battery that is safe and cost-competitive."
Goodenough is a materials scientist, a solid-state physicist, and a Nobel laureate in chemistry. He is a professor of mechanical engineering and materials science at the University of Texas at Austin.
He is widely credited with the identification and development of the lithium-ion battery; for his part in developing the Goodenough―Kanamori rules in determining the sign of the super exchange interaction in magnetic materials; and for seminal developments in computer random access memory (RAM).
SK Innovation has been making a consistent effort to expand its EV battery business. The company plans to jack up its battery production capacity to 100 gigawatt-hours by 2025, which is a fivefold growth from the company's 20 gigawatt-hour goal for this year. It has an R&D center and production site in Korea along with multiple plants in Europe, the United States and China.