The Powerhouse

Inside the invention of a battery to save the world

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What is it like to have the weight of the world on your technical shoulders? And what is keeping us from getting a super-battery? To find out, Steve LeVine spent two years in a lab with a half-dozen battery geniuses.
At 92, he is focused entirely on lithium metal, and--though he is careful now about his secrets so he did not tell me precisely his approach--he thinks he has a decent shot at figuring out how to fashion lithium metal into an anode without it turning into an explosion while a car is rumbling down a freeway.
The story is character-driven, and so I am driven to reply from that space. The most interesting character from the vantage of a writer--the hardest to write about because of the strong emotions he elicits in others--was Khalil Amine, one of the two battery geniuses at Argonne. I heard no end of gripes about him, most or all of them deeply and sincerely felt. Ultimately, I concluded that Amine's critics had him wrong. The gripes that is were problems not with him, but with the gripers themselves. Those passages weave through the book.
Amine is an immigrant from Morocco. His wife is Chinese. But his style is learned from years working in Japan. As I say, a fascinating window into invention that I did not expect.
I am going to have to take off. I enjoyed it. If anyone wants to follow up, feel free to email: