The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been jointly awarded to John B Goodenough of the US, Britain’s M Stanley Whittingham and Japan’s Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on 9 October 2019. The award was announced by Göran K Hansson, Secretary General of The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
- John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino share the prize for their work on these rechargeable devices, which are used for portable electronics.
- At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever Nobel laureate. The trio will share the prize money of nine million kronor (£738,000).
- The lithium-ion battery is a lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery that is used in everything from mobile phones to laptops to electric cars.
- 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.
- In addition to their use in electric vehicles, the rechargeable devices could also store significant amounts of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.
- The foundation of the lithium-ion battery was laid during the oil crisis of the 1970s. M Stanley Whittingham, 77, who was born in the UK, worked to develop energy technologies that did not rely on fossil fuels.
- He discovered an energy-rich material called titanium disulphide, which he used to make a cathode - the positive terminal - in a lithium battery.
- Whittingham, who is based at Binghampton University in Vestal, US, made the anode, the battery's negative terminal, from metallic lithium - which has a strong preference for releasing electrons. This made it very suitable for use in batteries. This resulting device was able to release just over two volts, but the metallic lithium made it explosive.
- John B Goodenough, who is American but was born in Germany, predicted that the cathode could be improved if it was made from a metal oxide, rather than a sulphide.
- In 1980, after searching for the ideal material, Goodenough, who is a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, used cobalt oxide to boost the lithium battery's potential to four volts.
- With Goodenough's cathode as a basis, Akira Yoshino, 71, created the first commercially-viable lithium-ion battery in 1985. Yoshino, who was born in Osaka, Japan, works for the Asahi Kasei Corporation and Meijo University in Nagoya.
- The 2018 literature prize was suspended after a scandal rocked the Swedish Academy. The body plans to award it this year, along with announcing the 2019 laureate.