3 Lithium-Ion Battery Creators Win Nobel Prize in Chemistry

John B. Goodenough, Michael Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino were awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry following their groundbreaking work developing lithium-ion batteries –  the batteries which come in smartphones and other commonplace technology. The three laureates received the prize together from the Swedish Royal Academy of Science. 

3 Lithium-Ion Battery Creators Win Nobel Chemistry Prize

Where Are Lithium-Ion Batteries Used?

Lithium-ion batteries are used on various devices, from smartphones to laptops to electric cars. The three scientists have played an integral role in the development of the technology so that larger batteries could be manufactured and used for the storage of significant amounts of renewable energy that is generated either by wind or the sun. Their goal is to bring humanity one step closer to the fossil-fuel-free way of life. 

3 Lithium-Ion Battery Creators Win Nobel Chemistry Prize

Their Contribution to the Development of Lithium-Ion Batteries

British-American chemist Michael Stanley Whittingham has been working on lithium-ion batteries since the 1970s. During the oil crisis, he started looking for ways to generate energy that doesn’t involve the usage of fossil fuel. He began by researching superconductors and discovered a material rich in energy. He used his findings to fabricate a battery from metallic lithium, which was “too explosive” to be mass-produced. 

John Bannister Goodenough is an American materials scientist who doubled the lithium battery’s potential by increasing its powerful properties. It was his work with cobalt oxide during the 1980s that proved that lithium ions could produce much more energy than the initially estimated two volts. By creating the right conditions, he managed to generate as much as four volts, and that was the breakthrough that propelled the technology into what it is today. 

In 1985, Japanese chemist Akira Yoshino used Goodenough cathode to make the technology safer and create the world’s first commercial viable lithium-ion battery. He used petroleum coke and carbon material to manufacture a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged multiple times before deteriorating. 

The work of these three brilliant men allowed the invention of batteries that aren’t based upon chemical reactions. Instead, they create energy by allowing lithium-ions to flow back and forth between the anode and cathode.