Professor Goodenough

Professor Goodenough

John Goodenough grew up near New Haven, Connecticut, and his father Evan taught religious history at Yale University. According to his recollection, the relationship between the parents “is like a disaster.” After the conflict between the two of them, they began to alienate their children. Goodenough and his mother Helen “never got along well.” At the age of 12, John and his brother Walter were sent to the Groton School after receiving a scholarship. Since then, he has rarely heard from his parents. After John grew up, he only received a letter from his mother. In a small biography published at his own expense, Goodenough mentioned many people who influenced him: siblings, a puppy named Marco, a maid, and an old neighbor. However, he obviously ignored his parents in this regard and said nothing to them. To him, they are just biological parents.

From this enthusiastic, funny and confident young man, it is hard to think of his childhood experience. Gudinaf suffered from dyslexia, a disease that was poorly understood by the medical community at the time and could not be treated. He couldn’t read at Groton School, couldn’t understand in class, and couldn’t keep up with the beat in church. His hobby is exploring nature: forests, animals and plants. Later, Tiansui was pleased. He was admitted to Yale University to study mathematics and graduated with the best grades. Then, he joined the field of science due to an accident: After the Second World War, the 24-year-old Gudinaf was serving as an army captain in the Azores off the coast of Portugal. One day he suddenly received a telegram. , Ordered him to return to Washington, D.C.-The education department accidentally discovered that there was still a budget that had not been used up, so it planned to use these funds to fund 21 retired Army officers to receive postgraduate education in physics and mathematics. Goodenough had almost no exposure to scientific knowledge during his undergraduate level, but for unknown reasons, a mathematics professor at Yale University added his name to this list. In this way, he came to the University of Chicago and studied physics under the guidance of professors such as Edward Teller and Enrico Fermi. Goodenough prepares to study the elementary courses at the undergraduate level so that R can make up the gap with other students. When signing up, a professor said to him, “I really don’t understand you veterans. Don’t you know? Anyone who wants to make a contribution in the field of physics will already be famous at your age.”

As a result, Goodenough showed great talent in physics. In 1952, he received his Ph.D., and then worked in MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. This laboratory was created in 1951 with funding from the U.S. Air Force to manufacture the first air defense system in the United States. According to the plan, his team needed to invent a computer storage system. This system was one of the key components of the planned air defense system, and was later called “SAGE”. At that time, the computer was composed of a large number of vacuum tubes. In Gudinaf’s words, it was so large that it could take up “a large ballroom”, and its storage speed was surprisingly slow. Some people believe that the ceramic materials used by this team have physical limitations, so this is an impossible task. Three years later, Lincoln Laboratory announced an invention called “64 x64-bit magnetic storage”. This scientific research result not only helped to complete the invention of SAGE, but also laid the cornerstone for subsequent computer storage systems. Many of Goodenough’s scientific research results followed one after another, including the “Gudinaf-Ginson Law”. This law provides guidelines for the study of metal oxides’ activities at the atomic level, and atoms are another major component of future computers.

For Goodenough, it’s time to change the environment. A friend brought him good news from across the Atlantic: Oxford University needs a professor to supervise and manage the school’s inorganic chemistry laboratory. Gudinaf is not a chemist, and has only taken two chemistry courses in universities, so he was surprised to get this job opportunity. This is the second time he has assumed a position that he is “incompetent”. Of course, “incompetence” is only a nominal statement.

Professor Goodenough is very strict. According to a female student when he first taught at Oxford University, a physics class taught by the professor initially had 165 students. Gudinaf was very strict in the first class. In the second class, only 8 students attended the class, and she was one of them. Gudinaf is also very strict in the laboratory. After leaving MIT, he began to seek a major breakthrough in the field of solid-state chemistry, which is known for creating a variety of commercial materials. On the list of objects that Goodenough is chasing, the first one is the research results of lithium battery recently published by Stan Wittingham.

For 60 years, carbon zinc has been the standard battery chemical material for consumer electronic products, and lead oxide used in small electronic products is too bulky and has long been replaced by carbon zinc. Wittingham’s idea is a step ahead of carbon-zinc. Not only is it more powerful, it is also lighter, and it can provide electricity for portable consumer electronics such as tape recorders. The premise is that this idea can become a reality. However, basic physics has become a “blocker”. The electrochemical reaction not only allows the normal operation of the lithium battery, but also makes the lithium battery there is a danger of explosion: the voltage may be out of control, the single cell may catch fire, and then the entire battery suddenly emits flames. However, if you want to be safer and switch to other elements, you will find that other elements will slowly decompose after repeated charging and discharging, and the result is not much better.

Goodenough hopes to create a battery that is more powerful than Wittingham’s vision. He said that the point of the invention is to change the mindset, and many scientists either refuse to do this or fail to do so. The battery invented by the scientist under Exxon is based on a sulfide electrode; Gudinaf turned his attention to another type of compound-metal oxide, which is a compound of oxygen and various metal elements. According to his judgment, the oxide charge and discharge voltage is higher than that of Whittingham’s invention, so it is expected to generate more energy. However, this kind of thinking also encounters the problem of how to insert a sufficient amount of lithium. Lithium insertion can generate electrons-sucking lithium ions from a cathode made of metal oxide, allowing them to shuttle between the electrodes. The more lithium ions shuttle, the more energy the battery produces. However, we cannot absorb all the lithium ions. This seems to be an axiom, because after all the lithium ions are absorbed, the cathode will basically be hollowed out and then completely decomposed. So, are there any oxides that can withstand such harsh conditions? If so, what kind of oxide? What is the magical percentage of the absorbed lithium ions?

Goodenough instructed the two postdoctoral assistants to methodically experiment with structures containing a set of oxides; he asked them to determine the voltage required to extract lithium ions from the oxides. He predicts that this pressure may be much higher than the 2.2 volts used by Whittingham. He also asked the two assistants to find out how many lithium ions can be inserted and extracted from the atomic structure before it breaks down. Their answer is half-when the voltage reaches 4 volts, about 50% of the lithium ions can be extracted from the cathode before decomposition, which is enough to make a powerful rechargeable battery. The two postdocs found that among the oxides they tested, cobalt was the most suitable and the most stable.

Over the years, Goodenough has continuously attracted various talents to join the laboratory. Researchers like to work with him and spend the golden stage of career development. Gudinaf himself has not done any experiments himself, all experiments are done by his postdoctoral assistants and researchers. Gudinaf may be harsh, but he created an atmosphere of ambition and pushed them to achieve excellent results. He also gave pointers to their projects. Among these researchers, there is a young man from South Africa who joined Goodenough’s team in 1981. He has a strange idea about gems.