John B. Goodenough, born 1922 in Jena, Germany.  Ph.D. 1952 from the University of Chicago, USA. Virginia H.  Cockrell Chair in Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, USA.

John B. Goodenough

M. Stanley Whittingham, born 1941 in the UK. Ph.D.  1968 from Oxford University, UK. Distinguished Professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York, USA.

Stanley Whittingham

Akira Yoshino, born 1948 in Suita, Japan.  Ph.D. 2005 from Osaka University, Japan. Honorary Fellow at Asahi Kasei Corporation, Tokyo, Japan and professor at Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan.

Akira Yoshino

Whittingham developed the first functional lithium battery in the early 1970s, but it was too explosive to be viable, according to a statement from the committee. Goodenough was responsible for developing far more powerful batteries. Yoshino later eliminated pure lithium from the battery, producing the first commercially viable lithium ion battery in 1985, according to the statement.

Lithium-ion batteries are used globally to power the portable electronics that we use to communicate, work, study, listen to music and search for knowledge. Lithium ion batteries have also enabled the development of long-range electric cars and the storage of energy from renewable sources, such as solar and wind power.

The foundation of the lithium-ion battery was laid during the oil crisis in the 1970s. Stanley Whittingham worked on developing methods that could lead to fossil fuel-free energy technologies. 

He started to research superconductors and discovered an extremely energy-rich material, which he used to create an innovative cathode in a lithium battery. This was made from titanium disulphide which, at a molecular level, has spaces that can house – intercalate – lithium ions.

The battery’s anode was partially made from metallic lithium, which has a strong drive to release electrons. This resulted in a battery that literally had great potential, just over two volts. However, metallic lithium is reactive and the battery was too explosive to be viable.

John Goodenough predicted that the cathode would have even greater potential if it was made using a metal oxide instead of a metal sulphide. After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts. This was an important breakthrough and would lead to much more powerful batteries.

With Goodenough’s cathode as a basis, Akira Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985. Rather than using reactive lithium in the anode, he used petroleum coke, a carbon material that, like the cathode’s cobalt oxide, can intercalate lithium ions.

Remarkably, Goodenough is the oldest person to win a Nobel Prize. Arthur Ashkin was the previous record holder, having won the Nobel Prize in physics in 2019 at age 96.

John B. Goodenough won Nobel prize at the age of 97

According to nobelprize & edition.cnn