In the early 20th century, electric cars powered by lead-acid batteries seemed to outperform cars powered by internal combustion engines. The internal combustion engine uses gasoline as fuel to convert heat energy into mechanical energy through processes such as air intake, compression, combustion, and expansion. Since then, a series of inventions have appeared, such as the electric igniter (replaced the clumsy manual crank), which has brought new advantages to the internal combustion engine. In the next 40 years, few people came up with different ideas.
In 1966, Ford Motor Company (referred to as Ford Motor) tried to relaunch electric vehicles. It released a battery that uses liquid electrodes and solid electrolyte, which is the opposite of Plant’s configuration. This is a brand-new way of thinking. The two electrodes are respectively a molten sulfur electrode and a molten sodium electrode, which are lighter in weight, and the same space can store electrical energy 15 times higher than that of a lead-acid battery.
Of course, Ford’s batteries also have some shortcomings. It can only be operated at around 300°C and is not suitable for use in a room temperature environment. In contrast, the optimal operating temperature of an internal combustion engine is around 90°C. If the molten metal under the hood is hotter and easier to explode, then driving such a car would be dangerous. In reality, the actual use of such batteries may be limited to static storage facilities, such as power stations. However, both Ford and the public initially put cautious attitudes behind. In the United States in the 1960s, consumers suddenly realized that smog was engulfing every city, so after Ford promised to produce clean electric cars, consumers’ appetites were dampened.
According to the American monthly magazine Popular Science, Ford’s lead-acid battery electric vehicle can travel 40 miles at a maximum speed of 40 miles per hour in the initial stage. Ford said that electric cars powered by new sodium sulphur batteries can travel 200 miles per hour on highways. After charging for 1 hour, the car can continue to travel 200 miles. The other two journalists who were with the male reporter of “Popular Science” did not pay much attention to Ford’s statement. One of the reporters said not far from the “Popular Science” reporter that electric cars are “not at all possible” for human use. .
The reporter of Popular Science went on to write: “The two went out, got in their respective cars, started the cars, and whizzed away, leaving behind two smoke ribbons composed of unburned carbon oxides, carbon monoxide and other pollutants. , Adding a touch of black to Detroit’s deteriorating atmospheric environment.” The reporter’s words were a good joke. However, he was wrong. If people desire an invention, it will come into being. Without drastic changes, American cities will eventually become no longer livable. Electric vehicles are expected to curb the spread of toxic gases. Although the specific details of electric vehicles have not yet been determined, but it will certainly enter our lives. And we don’t have to wait too long.
Just like in the 19th century when commercial inventions were admired, people have been excited about Ford’s breakthrough achievement for several years. Researchers all over the world try their best to catch up, and even hope to surpass Ford. This is like Argonne’s desire to become the supreme authority on nuclear energy in the new era. In the late 1960s, an electrochemist named Elton Keynes served as the head of the newly established research institute at Argonne National Laboratory-the head of the battery department. Keynes was ambitious and launched a comprehensive study of high-temperature batteries similar to Ford. Someone proposed to study a hybrid bus that uses phosphoric acid fuel cells, whose batteries are driven by methane. So the researchers tested this kind of bus. The head of the department welcomes all suggestions. The only principle he insists on is that any invention must be quickly marketed. To ensure this, he invited many companies to send their scientists to Argonne to work for a period of months to a year, and many companies did so.
Professor John Goodenough is a scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He said that everything changed suddenly. The battery is no longer so dull and tasteless. Gudinaf attributed this enthusiasm to three reasons: the oil embargo of Arab countries in 1973, the general recognition that global oil is depleting, and the exciting scientific research achievements on both sides of the Atlantic. Stan Wittingham, a postdoctoral assistant at Stanford University, discovered that he can electrochemically transfer lithium atoms from one pole to the other at room temperature without causing too much damage to the two poles. This line of thinking is contrary to Ford’s research direction. Wittingham borrowed the concept of embeddedness in chemistry to explain the process of making the battery rechargeable, which produced a great response. The oil giant Exxon offered an olive branch to Whittingham, and the salary was very attractive. Exxon has always wanted to compete with Bell Laboratories, which “is regarded as the exclusive laboratory for the energy industry.” He accepted Exxon’s invitation and began to use his own research results to make batteries.
Whittingham is very interested in the malleable silver-white lithium material because it is the lightest metal on the periodic table. However, because lithium will react with air and cause fires in some cases, scientists will only process pure lithium metal in the special environment of the laboratory. In the laboratory environment, all the moisture in the air is removed. Remove. Only by fusing lithium and another metal into an alloy can Wittingham make lithium metal work. In fact, he did achieve this, successfully generating lithium aluminum alloy, and producing a small, powerful anode. In 1977, Exxon introduced the device invented by Wittingham to the market as a promotional product. This coin-sized battery fits into a solar watch. However, in Exxon’s laboratory, when Wittingham tried to expand the size of the battery, the battery always caught fire. Although he added aluminum to the alloy, lithium metal is still too active.
At this time, MIT scientist Professor Goodenough began to surpass the achievements of Ford Motor, Argonne National Laboratory and Whittingham. After successful experiments, he will be able to personally lead or participate in most major invention projects in the field of modern batteries.