The Nobel Prize 2019 for Chemistry has been awarded to John B Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino for developing the lithium-ion batteries that are today used in everyday items; from mobile phones to remote controls and even electric vehicles. On being awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Japanese Chemist Akirsa Yoshino said: "Curiosity was the main driving force for me."
The prize is awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, Sweden. At 97, John B Goodenough is the oldest person to receive a Nobel Prize. He will share the nine million Swedish kronor (about $914,000) prize sum equally with Japanese Chemist Akira Yoshino and British Chemist Stanley Whittingham.
The three scientists, with their invention, "created the right conditions for a wireless and fossil fuel-free society," the jury said. "This lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery ... can also store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society," it said.
The lithium-ion batteries were developed, broadly in three phases.
During the oil crisis in the 1970s, Stanley Whittingham laid the foundations of the lithium-ion batteries. The British Chemist then started "developing methods that could lead to fossil fuel-free energy technologies," the Nobel Academy said in a statement. He developed the first functional lithium battery.
In the early 1970s, Stanley 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.#NobelPrizepic.twitter.com/lRD2zBNm4T— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2019
The battery's anode -- the point where current flows in from outside -- were made of metallic lithium, which is reactive. The batteries, therefore, were too explosive to be viable.
American materials scientist John B Goodenough built on this and in 1980 had a major breakthrough, where he doubled the battery's potential. "After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts," the academy said.
This year's #NobelPrize laureate Akira 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. pic.twitter.com/9tqSh5zTsS— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2019
Akira Yoshino, in the final stage, created the first commercially viable batteries in 1985. "Rather than using reactive lithium in the anode, he used petroleum coke, a carbon material that, like the cathode's cobalt oxide, can intercalate lithium ions," the academy said. He replaced pure lithium with lithium ions, which are safer and made the battery workable.
"Lithium batteries have revolutionised our lives since they first entered the market in 1991," it said, adding they were "of the greatest benefit to humankind".
The Nobel Prizes for Medicine and Physics were announced on Monday and Tuesday, the latter also awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. On Thursday, the 2018 and 2019 prize for Literature will be announced. The 2018 award was postponed for the first time in 70 years after a sexual harassment scandal hit the board of the academy.
On Friday, the scene moves to Oslo, Norway where the Nobel Peace Prize will be announced. Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg has emerged as the "bookies' favourite" this year.
Finally, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel 2019 will be announced on October 14, wrapping up the Nobel Prize season.