2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry

Chemistry Nobel Prize 2019 goes to the founders of lithium-ion batteries

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2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry awarded to three scientists named John B. Goodenough (aged 97), M. Stanley Whittingham (aged 77) and Akira Yoshino (aged 71) for the development of rechargeable Lithium-ion batteries. The trio will share the prize money of nine million kronor ($918,000) cash award, a gold medal, and a diploma. The award will be conferred on Dec. 10 on the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 — in Stockholm and in Oslo, Norway. At the age of 97, Prof Goodenough is the oldest ever to receive a Nobel prize.

Lithium-ion batteries have completely changed the world, today they used in smartphones, laptops, and even in electric vehicles. They also reduced the dependency on natural resources like fossil fuels.

The Nobel committee said Lithium-ion batteries are “a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated.”

“The advantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are not based upon chemical reactions that break down the electrodes, but upon lithium ions flowing back and forth between the anode and cathode,” the Nobel further added.

“Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991. They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil-fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.”

How Lithium-ion batteries developed

M. Stanley Whittingham started Lithium-ion batteries in the 1970s during the oil crises. He was looking for technology which doesn’t depend on fossil fuels. He discovered a new material called titanium disulphide, which he later used to make a cathode – the positive terminal of a lithium battery. For the anode, he used metallic lithium. But it managed to produce only 2V of electric potential. Also, the combination of materials in the Cathode and Anode made the battery explosive.

By 1980, John B. Goodenough did some changes in the Cathode of the battery. He used Cobalt Oxide in the Cathode which doubled the electric potential to 4V but batteries were still explosive.

Later in the 1980s Japanese scientist Akira Yoshino, did some research to eliminate the explosiveness of the battery. He then substituted petroleum coke, a carbon material, in the Lithium-ion battery’s anode which finally eliminated the explosive factor of the batteries.



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