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              Koichi Mizushima, a physicist, was to try cathodic extraction  Allegro
              of lithium from isostructural LiNiO  and LiCoO  where
                                        2
                                                  2
              sufficient electronic conductivity was anticipated:          1989, the phone rings - Keith Mansell on the other end
                                                               who had written the original Patents. A Japanese major
              LiCoO  - xLi  - xe   =   Li CoO                  was trying to break the Patent but I was able to refute the
                        +
                   2              1-x  2
              We knew that isostructural Na CoO  had been synthesised   allegations. I still didn’t think much about it – just wait till
                                     0.9  2
              conventionally at Bordeaux. By not attempting low   it all catches fire on them! Then, a few years later, it’s Bill
              temperature methods, later termed ‘chimie douce’, they   Macklin, another solid state chemist from the department.
              were one step from a breakthrough.               I learn that Sony were manufacturing batteries; also,
                                                               they were claiming to have found a disclosure which, if
              The figure below shows the cell Koichi used. The liquid   true, would render the Harwell patents worthless. Out of
              electrolyte was LiBF  in propylene carbonate and the anode   curiosity, I went out and bought a lithium-ion battery setting
                             4
              initially lithium metal so all the work had to be done in a   me back £50. I asked Bill how Sony had tackled the anode
              glove box; an oil slick from the pump still stains the archway.   problem and this confirmed an industrial stereotype. They

              This was no overnight experiment. Koichi spent a   wanted something solid and light which lithium would insert
              painstaking year before being happy with his numbers. To   into – coke! – which has graphitic elements:
              get reproducible voltages, he used Li V O  anodes. Lithium   charge  g  LiCoO  + C   =   Li CoO  + Li C    discharge
                                           x
                                              5
                                            2
              could be removed almost completely to CoO , a new oxide        2       1-x  2   x f
                                                 2
              of cobalt, though above x=0.5 some degradation of the   So sometimes in science simple is best. We basically
              cathode occurred on repeated cycling. Unsurprisingly,   adapted rock salt for the cathode while Sony adapted coke
              with cobalt +4 in the mix, the voltage was huge, almost   for the anode – and it worked.
              twice that of the Whittingham cell with high energy and   Sony’s second
              current density; the absence of plateaus implied a topotactic   attempt to break
                                                               the Patent centred
                                                               on a January 1979
                                                               conference in
                                                               Brussels where
                                                               I’d presented
                                                               our preliminary
                                                               battery work
                                                               for the first time
                                                               at a private meeting. Fortunately, after 15 years, I still had
                                                               video recall and was able to help Marcus Lofting, Head of
              process.  Phil Jones comes into the story as regards   Patents. What transpired was that the talk I gave was used
              analytical and X-ray proof of structure retention. Phil was   by someone but only to pad out a later write-up of their
              a Part II - or should I say ‘an established collaborator’.   public talk.  So Harwell’s royalties started to roll in. I’m not
              By 1980, Koichi had returned to Tokyo, so I drafted the   sure how many tens of millions they made but I did notice
              paper which John submitted – just seven pages and never   one year, the headline in the Business section of the Daily
              refereed. There was voltage to burn. On page 6 we state,   Telegraph was ‘Battery Powered’. Admittedly, when I did
              ‘the high voltages permit consideration of . . . an insertion   eventually receive a consultancy fee, my balance sheet was
              compound of low work function for the negative electrode’   transformed. I went from a Year 1 loss of £50 to a Year 1 plus
              – a lithium-ion battery, Li  rocking to and fro.   Year 2 profit of £450. Welcome to the land of irony!
                                 +
              With ISIS Innovation in absentia, the intertwined grants   But at least there was the Landmark Plaque. I had a
              needed knot theory to disentangle them. There was EEC   Physics master at school called Wally Evans who once,
              sponsorship arranged by Bruce Tofield at Harwell despite   Bunsenesquely, said, “You either go for the money or you
              Koichi being supported by the US Air Force. In the ensuing   go for the glory.” While Koichi was relatively easy to locate
              kerfuffle, I walked with John to sign patent documents at   for the presentation, Phil Jones had left chemistry for the
              Wellington Square where he strode in and prophetically   RAF after Part II.  I tracked him down in France ten days
              announced that, “Noone’s going to get rich out of this”!   before the event. He wasn’t even aware his work had been
              John’s main concern was the cost of cobalt, mine was the   published, let alone its ramifications; unlike me, he did at
              material’s tenuous ringfencing in phase space. A paling split   least own a mobile phone.
              one evening on scale-up and the fire brigade was called -
              nowadays it’s politely called thermal runaway.    And as for lithium-ion batteries - we’re now surrounded
                                                               by ’em. If in time superseded, their elegance will remain.
              While further work was done in the lab, interest waned as   In 1996 Peter Dickens retired. He never said anything, but
              oil prices receded. John left for Texas in 1986, the year many   one day I came in, and the cigar box of samples was in the
              solid state chemists hitched a ride on the high temperature   middle of my desk.
              superconductivity bandwagon that rolled into town. All
              quiet on the battery front.
                                                                                                                13
                                                                                                 Periodic
                                                            The Magazine of the Department of Chemistry
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