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From Nobel's Chem Prize Winners: Batteries

John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino brought us lithium-ion batteries
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 9, 2019 6:11 AM CDT
Updated Oct 9, 2019 7:04 AM CDT
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In this Feb. 1, 2013, file photo, then-US President Obama awards the National Medal of Science to Dr. John Goodenough of the University of Texas during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
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(Newser) – The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to the US' John B. Goodenough and M. Stanley Whittingham, and Japan's Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries, per the AP. "Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles," the Nobel Committee notes. With the glory comes a $918,000 cash award to be shared, a gold medal, and a diploma, which the laureates will receive at a ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10. Whittingham kicked things off on the lithium-ion front in the early '70s, when he discovered an extremely energy-rich material that he used to create an "innovative cathode" for the first functional lithium-ion battery, per a release and information sheet.

Goodenough stepped in during the '80s to build upon Whittingham's work by suggesting the use of cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions in the cathode instead of a metal sulphide, which led to a more powerful battery. Finally, Yoshino took Goodenough's battery and used it as the foundation for his own, which got rid of pure lithium altogether and based it wholly on safer lithium ions. His battery—a stable, lightweight version that could produce 4 volts—became the first commercially viable one in 1985. "Lithium-ion batteries ... are of the greatest benefit to humankind," the Nobel Committee notes. "Through their work, this year's chemistry laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society." Thursday will see two literature laureates, while the coveted Nobel Peace Prize is Friday; the economics award will take place on Monday.

(Read more Nobel Prize stories.)

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