Chemistry Nobel goes to three scientists for developing lithium-ion batteries

Thank John D Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the lithium-ion batteries that you use in everyday life from mobile phones to electric vehicles.

The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry will be awarded to John D Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries, the Nobel Committee said on Wednesday.

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. Through their work, this year’s Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, the Nobel Committee said in a statement.

In the early 1970s, Dr. Whittingham, awarded this year’s Chemistry Prize, used lithium’s enormous drive to release its outer electron when he developed the first functional lithium battery. Dr. Goodenough doubled the lithium battery’s potential, creating the right conditions for a vastly more powerful and useful battery.

Dr. Yoshino succeeded in eliminating pure lithium from the battery, instead basing it wholly on lithium ions, which are safer than pure lithium. This made the battery workable in practice.

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.

Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised our lives since they first entered the market in 1991. Today, lithium batteries are used everywhere from mobile phones to electric vehicles, and also to store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society.

The Physics award was given to a Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology, and two Swiss scientists — Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz — for discovery of an exoplanet that orbits a sun-like star.

On Monday, two Americans and one British scientist Drs. William G. Kaelin Jr. of Harvard Medical School and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Gregg L. Semenza of Johns Hopkins University and Peter J. Ratcliffe at the Francis Crick Institute in Britain and Oxford University won the prize for advances in physiology or medicine. They were cited for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”

And on Thursday come two literature laureates, while the coveted Nobel Peace Prize is Friday and the economics award on Monday.

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates receive them at an elegant ceremony on Dec. 10 the death anniversary of Alfred Nobel, its founder.

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