Nobel Prize in Chemistry Honors Work on Lithium-Ion Batteries

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The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm on Wednesday awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry to three scientists — John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino — for their development of lightweight lithium-ion batteries.

The trio will share prize money of more than $900,000.

Their work led to the creation of powerful, lightweight and rechargeable batteries that you might be relying on to power a smartphone or laptop computer that you’re using to read this article today. Lithium-ion batteries not only enabled the development of portable electronics, they also made it possible to power electric cars, store energy generated by solar and wind power and improved lifesaving medical devices.

“We can see an enormous, dramatic effect on society because of this fantastic battery,” Olof Ramström, a member of the committee that selected the winners, said during an online broadcast.

Why did they win?

In the early 1970s, a growing oil crisis inspired many scientists, including Dr. Whittingham, to begin searching for improved ways to store energy from renewable sources and power electric cars. This required rechargeable batteries, but there were only two types available at the time: heavy lead or nickel-cadmium batteries.

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