Nobel Prize lithium-ion
Left to right: John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino. Credits: University of Texas at Austin; Binghamton University; the Japan Prize Foundation

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino in recognition for their vital roles in the development of lithium-ion batteries, that has “laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind”.

It also noted the battery technology’s use “in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. It can also store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society.

Stanley Whittingham’s research on superconductors led to the discovery of an extremely energy-rich material, which he used to create an innovative cathode in a lithium battery.

John Goodenough predicted that the cathode would have even greater potential if it was made using a metal oxide instead of a metal sulphide. After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts. This was an important breakthrough.

With Goodenough’s cathode as a basis, Akira Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985 and used petroleum coke instead of lithium in the anode.

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The organisation stated “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. 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.”