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Three win Nobel for work on lithium-ion batteries


Japanese chemist Akira Yoshino speaks during Global Energy Prize award ceremony in St Petersburg, Russia, on June 21, 2013.

Photo: AP

Three scientists yesterday won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their work leading to the development of lithium-ion batteries, which have reshaped energy storage and transformed vehicles, mobile phones and many other devices — and reduced reliance on fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

The prize went to John Goodenough, 97, a German-born engineering professor at the University of Texas; Stanley Whittingham, 77, a British-American chemistry professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton; and Japan’s Akira Yoshino, 71, of Asahi Kasei Corp and Meijo University.

Goodenough is the oldest ever recipient of a Nobel Prize.

The three each had a set of unique breakthroughs that cumulatively 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,” Linse said.

“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 ... was so surprised that her knees almost gave way,” he said.

The trio are to share a 9 million kronor (US$905,040) cash award, a gold medal and a diploma that are to be conferred on Dec. 10 in Stockholm.

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