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Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 awarded for rechargeable Lithium ion batteries

October 11, 2019

This year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium Ion batteries.

The lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized and mobilized our world completely. These rechargeable and lightweight batteries are used in all electronic equipment ranging from smartphones, notebooks, laptops, iPads and electric cars. Furthermore, these batteries can be charged using renewable energy sources thereby paving the way for a fossil fuel independent future.

The functional components of a lithium-ion battery are electrodes (anode and cathode) and electrolyte. In general, the anode of a lithium-ion cell is made from carbon. The cathode is made from a metal oxide, and the electrolyte is a lithium salt in an organic solvent, such as ethylene carbonate, dimethyl carbonate, or diethyl carbonate. Further, depending on the current flow through the battery, electrochemical roles of the electrodes may reverse.

In 1970s, at the start of the world oil crisis, M. S. Whittingham[1], reported the development of a new battery storage system based on the intercalation of lithium in titanium disulphide. John B. Goodenough and his team discovered LixCoO2 along with MX2 can serve as cathode material for the Lithium-ion batteries in 1979/1980[2]. In 1985, a breakthrough was achieved in anode materials, when Akira Yoshino[3] identified that petroleum coke was stable under required electrochemical conditions.

The first commercial lithium-ion batteries were launched by Sony and Asahi Kasei Corporation in 1991. Over the years, the lithium ion battery has been utilized by various portable electronic consumer products manufacturers. As per the current market report[4], global lithium ion battery market was valued $30186.8 million in 2017 and is projected to hit $100433.7 million by 2025, at a CAGR of 17.1% from 2018 to 2025. The market for these batteries is expected to significant growth owing to increase in use in smartphones, tablets/PCs, digital cameras, and power tools.

Moreover, the demand for Li-ion batteries in the automobile industry is expected to increase in line with rise in demand for electric vehicles. The most popular and efficient electric cars are currently being manufactured by Tesla, which can achieve about 8 lakh kms out of their lithium-ion batteries. Tesla now aims to create a lithium-ion battery which can achieve over 16 lakh kms.

Current research in lithium-ion batteries is aimed towards increasing the life, energy density, safety, charging speed and reducing the cost of production.

As quoted by Royal Society of Chemistry’s president Carol Robinson, ‘It’s not the end of the journey, as lithium is a finite resource and many scientists around the world are building on the foundations laid by these three brilliant chemists’.

[1] Whittingham, M.S. Chalcogenide battery. US Patent 4009052, 1977.

[2] Goodenough, J.B. and Mizushima, K. Fast ion conductors. US Patent 4357215, 1982.

[3] Yoshino, A., Sanechika, K. and Nakajima, T. Secondary battery. US4668595, 1987

[4] Lithium Ion Battery Market by Component (Cathode, Anode, Electrolytic Solution, and Others) and End-Use Industry (Electrical & Electronics, Automotive, and Industrial): Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2018 – 2025 (https://www.alliedmarketresearch.com/lithium-ion-battery-market)

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