Lithium-Ion Batteries (LIBs) power everything from smartphones to power tools and electric cars. Entire cities store power generated during the day, via solar panels, for use at night from large lithium battery arrays. One of the largest factories in the world, the Tesla Gigafactory, is devoted solely to manufacturing Lithium-Ion batteries.
An ability to recharge relatively rapidly and deliver a steady stream of electricity without overheating makes LIBs the workhorse of portable power. The batteries are so popular that there are fears of an upcoming lithium shortage.
There were several iterations of lithium batteries and the technology is still evolving.
John Goodenough, a professor of engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, is the primary inventor of the battery. Goodenough has an interesting history. He graduated summa cum laude in mathematics from Yale. After WWII, the army ordered him back to the US to attend graduate school in physics.
Goodenough spent his life in academia but, in the 1970s, decided to focus on batteries. Like many, he was angered by the OPEC-led energy crisis and also concerned about the smog and pollution internal combustion engines caused. A strong battery could power cars, he reasoned and switched his attention to battery technology.
Goodenough was 57 years old in 1980 when he invented the Lithium-Ion battery. Sony commercialized the technology and the new battery became a blockbuster. Despite the commercial success, Goodenough earned no royalties from his battery. However, there was a massive patent battle between various companies and people involved in creating and commercializing the battery.
In 2017, Goodenough, age 94, announced he has created a successor solid-state battery that lasts longer, holds more energy, is more environmentally friendly (it contains no cobalt), and is safer than his original battery. As of 2019, he is still alive and still working on building a better battery.