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Basis for energy transition: Nobel Prize in chemistry for the fathers of the lithium-ion battery


TIME ONLINE | News, backgrounds and debates

Stockholm (dpa) - For the development of particularly powerful batteries, three researchers will receive this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

The US-American John Goodenough, the British-born Stanley Whittingham and the Japanese Akira Yoshino were decisively involved in the development of lithium-ion batteries, informed the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on Wednesday in Stockholm. The lightweight, rechargeable and powerful batteries are used in many everyday products, such as cell phones, laptops, digital cameras and electric vehicles.

Goodenough, who was born in 1922 in Jena, the son of American parents, is the oldest Nobel laureate ever at the age of 97. At first he did not know anything about his award. Unlike the other two winners, he could not have been reached in the morning, said Göran Hansson, secretary-general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Lithium ion batteries could store large amounts of solar and wind energy, making a world free of fossil fuels possible, the Royal Swedish Academy said. "Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they were launched in 1991," writes the Academy. "They've laid the groundwork for a wireless, fossil fuel-free society and are of tremendous benefit to humanity."

The contributions of the three winners build on each other. Whittingham developed in the 1970s, the first functional lithium battery, which was still susceptible to explosions. Goodenough developed much more powerful batteries in 1980 through the use of lithium cobalt oxide (LCO). Yoshino created the first commercially viable product in 1985. In 1991, the battery came on the market.

The most prestigious award for chemists is currently endowed with the equivalent of around 830,000 euros (9 million Swedish kroner). The awards ceremony is traditionally held on the 10th of December, the day of the death of the founder Alfred Nobel.

Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to 180 different researchers. One of them, the Briton Frederick Sanger, received him twice. Among the winners so far were five women, such as Marie Curie in 1911, who discovered the radioactive elements polonium and radium and only last year, the American enzyme researcher Frances Arnold.

On Monday, the Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to Gregg Semenza (USA), William Kaelin (USA) and Peter Ratcliffe (United Kingdom). They had shown how cells perceive the oxygen content in their environment and react to changes.

On Tuesday, half of the Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor (77) and Didier Queloz (53). They had discovered the first exoplanet circling a sun-like star. The other half is given to the Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles (84) for basic insights into the universe.

The announcement of this year's Nobel Prize for Literature follows on Thursday. Two authors will be honored this year because the 2018 prize was not awarded following a scandal on the jury panel. On Friday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner will be named.

In addition to the enzyme researcher Frances Arnold, George Smith (also USA) and Briton Gregory Winter were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry last year. Using evolution as a model, protein researchers have created opportunities for greener manufacturing of pharmaceutical and biofuels.

Nobel Foundation

Source: zeit

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