Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries can be found in pretty much everything from mobile phones to electric vehicles, and can store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power. Given their prominent place in everyday life, and the fact that they were first developed in the 1970s, many would say this award is long overdue.
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.#NobelPrize pic.twitter.com/lRD2zBNm4T
— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2019
Stanley Whittingham first laid the foundations for lithium-ion batteries during the oil crisis in the 1970s, when he created an innovative cathode that could hold lithium ions. John Goodenough — who at 97 years old is the oldest ever Nobel laureate — built upon this research in the 1980s when he demonstrated that a battery could hold four volts of charge. Akira Yoshino then created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985.
The award comes after several years of hopeful anticipation from the battery-research community, which has consistently put forward the scientists for the ground-breaking work the Nobel Committee has only now recognized for laying “the foundations of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.” Speaking to reporters after the announcement, Professor Yoshino said the news was “amazing” and “surprising,” and that he was pleased his contributions could help fight climate change, which he called a “very serious issue for humankind.”