COPENHAGEN – The Nobel Prize in chemistry has been awarded to the developers of lithium-ion batteries.
Scientists John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino will receive the accolade, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Wednesday.
“Lithium-ion batteries are used globally to power the portable electronics that we use to communicate, work, study, listen to music and search for knowledge,” the academy said in a statement.
“Lithium-ion batteries have also enabled the development of long-range electric cars and the storage of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.
“Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991.
“They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil-fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.”
Goodenough, born in Jena, eastern Germany in 1921, is a professor at the University of Austin in Texas, Whittingham is an English-American chemist at the Binghamton University in New York and Akira Yoshino is a Japanese chemist at Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.
In the 1970s, Whittingham laid the foundations of the lithium-ion battery when looking for alternative energy methods to fossil fuels.
Goodenough took the early technology to new levels in the 1980s and was able to boost the early batteries’ energy potential by changing some of the materials used in Whittingham’s early models, from metal sulphides to metal oxides.
Whittingham’s earlier model was volatile.
Yoshino took these improvements even further, removing pure lithium from the battery, and created the first commercially available lithium-ion batteries.
“The result was a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated.
“The advantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are not based upon chemical reactions that break down the electrodes, but upon lithium ions flowing back and forth between the anode and cathode,” the statement said.
Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, announced the award in Stockholm.
All prizes include an economic endowment, which this year amounts to nine million Swedish kronor ($912,000).
The chemistry award came after the Nobel prize for physics and medicine, which on Monday opened the round of announcements of the prestigious awards, with the chemistry, literature, peace and economy categories due to be revealed in the coming days.
There will be two literature prizes this year after last year’s was suspended due to a scandal in the Swedish Academy.
The awards will be officially presented in Stockholm on 10 December, the anniversary of the death of founder Alfred Nobel.