Trio win Nobel Chemistry Prize for developing lithium-ion battery

The scientists won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the development of lithium-ion batteries.
The scientists won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the development of lithium-ion batteries.PHOTO: REUTERS

STOCKHOLM (AFP) - Three researchers on Wednesday (Oct 9) won the Nobel Chemistry Prize for the development of lithium-ion batteries, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said.

John Goodenough of the US – at 97 the oldest person to be awarded a Nobel prize – Britain’s Stanley Whittingham, and Japan’s Akira Yoshino will share the nine million Swedish kronor (S$1.25 million) prize sum equally.

"This lightweight, rechargeable and powerful battery is now used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles... (and) can also store significant amounts of energy from solar and wind power, making possible a fossil fuel-free society," the jury said.

"Lithium batteries have revolutionised our lives since they first entered the market in 1991," it said, adding they were "of the greatest benefit to humankind".

The three will receive the prize from King Carl XVI Gustaf at a formal ceremony in Stockholm on December 10, the anniversary of the 1896 death of scientist Alfred Nobel who created the prizes in his last will and testament.

Last year, the honour went to US scientists Frances Arnold and George Smith and British researcher Gregory Winter for developing enzymes used for greener and safer chemistry and antibody drugs with less side effects.

Arnold was just the fifth woman to clinch chemistry’s most prestigious honour since Marie Curie was honoured in 1911.

This year’s Nobel prize season kicked off on Monday with the Medicine Prize awarded to Americans William Kaelin and Gregg Semenza, and Britain’s Peter Ratcliffe.

They won for research into how human cells sense and adapt to changing oxygen levels, opening up new strategies to fight such diseases as cancer and anaemia.

On Tuesday, the Physics Prize honoured Canadian-American cosmologist James Peebles and Swiss astronomers Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz for research on how the Universe evolved after the Big Bang, and the first discovery of a planet outside our solar system, known as an exoplanet. 

The Literature Prize will follow on Thursday, with two laureates to be crowned after a sexual harassment scandal forced the Swedish Academy to postpone the 2018 award, for the first time in 70 years.

Some names creating a buzz ahead of this year’s literature prize are Canadian poet Anne Carson, Kenyan writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, Romanian poet and novelist Mircea Cartarescu and Polish writer and activist Olga Tokarczuk.

On Friday the action moves to Norway where the Peace Prize is awarded, with bookies predicting a win for Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg on betting sites such as Ladbrokes.

The Economics Prize will wrap up the Nobel prize season on Monday, Oct 14.