Three scientists won the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Wednesday for their work leading to the development of
lithium-ion batteries. The batteries have reshaped energy storage and transformed mobile devices — and reduced reliance on fossil fuels.
The prize went to John Goodenough, 97, of the University of Texas; M. Stanley Whittingham, 77, of the State University of New York at Binghamton; and Akira Yoshino, 71, of Asahi Kasei Corporation and Meijo University.
Goodenough is the oldest ever recipient of a Nobel Prize.
The three each had a set of unique breakthroughs that laid the foundation for the development of a commercial rechargeable battery.
The Nobel committee said the lithium-ion battery has its roots in the oil crisis in the 1970s, when Whittingham was working to develop methods aimed at leading to fossil fuel-free energy technologies.
“We have gained access to a technical revolution,” said Sara Snogerup Linse, of the Nobel committee for chemistry. “The laureates developed lightweight batteries with high enough potential to be useful in many applications — truly portable electronics: mobile phones, pacemakers, but also long-distance electric cars.
“The ability to store energy from renewable sources — the sun, the wind — opens up for sustainable energy consumption,” she added.
Speaking at a news conference in Tokyo, Yoshino said he thought there might be a long wait before the Nobel committee turned to his specialty — but his turn came sooner than he thought.
Yoshino said he broke the news to his wife. “I only spoke to her briefly and said, ‘I got it,’ and she sounded she was so surprised that her knees almost gave way.”
The trio will share a $918,000 cash prize and will each receive a gold medal and a diploma December 10 — the anniversary of prize founder Alfred Nobel’s death in 1896 — in Stockholm, Sweden.
On Tuesday, Canadian-born James Peebles won the Nobel Prize in physics for his theoretical discoveries in cosmology together with Swiss scientists Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz, who were honored for finding an exoplanet — a planet outside our solar system — that orbits a solar-type star.
Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza and Britain’s Peter Ratcliffe won the Nobel Prize for advances in physiology or medicine on Monday. They were cited for their discoveries of “how cells sense and adapt to oxygen availability.”
Three Nobel Prizes have yet to be announced. The prize for literature will be announced Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday and the economics award on Monday.