Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for research on lithium batteries

Join The Local at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was announced.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded for research on lithium batteries
The three winners are announced at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Photo: Naina Helén Jåma/TT

12:25: Goodbye for now

And that's it from our live blog for today, but we'll be back tomorrow when not one but two Nobel Prizes in Literature will be announced. Thanks for following!

12.15: Laureate reactions

A journalist asks how the other two laureates reacted to their wins.

“Neither of them used the word 'finally', but of course they were delighted with the news,” says Academy Secretary General Göran K Hansson.

12.11: The importance of cross-disciplinary research

It's now time for questions to the panel.

The first one highlights the importance of cross-disciplinary research, since the work that was awarded today relates to both chemistry and physics.

We also learn that the Academy has not yet been able to reach John B Goodenough.

And the Academy's Olof Ramstöm explains that these batteries can be used as complements to other kinds of renewable power, such as solar and wind energy, which are not reliable 24/7.

12.00: Dr Yoshino is on the phone

One of the new Chemistry Nobel laureates, Dr Akira Yoshino, is now on the phone to talk a bit about his research and reaction to the win, although the phone connection isn't too good.

The first question notes that Yoshino's work began years and years ago, and asks if there was a specific 'eureka' moment. He singles out the year 1981 as the start of his work.

Asked about his motivation for the work, the researcher singles out “curiosity” as his major driving force.

And what was his reaction to that all-important Nobel phonecall this morning?

“You sounded happy when we spoke an hour ago,” says Academy General Secretary Göran K Hansson, and Yoshino agrees with a chuckle. 

11.57: How do lithium-ion batteries work?

Here's the official explanation from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences:

“Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionised our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. Through their work, this year’s Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.

In the early 1970s, Stanley Whittingham, awarded this year’s Chemistry Prize, used lithium’s enormous drive to release its outer electron when he developed the first functional lithium battery.

2019 Chemistry Laureate John Goodenough doubled the lithium battery’s potential, creating the right conditions for a vastly more powerful and useful battery.

This year’s #NobelPrize laureate Akira Yoshino succeeded in eliminating pure lithium from the battery, instead basing it wholly on lithium ions, which are safer than pure lithium. This made the battery workable in practice.”

You can find out more about it on the Nobel Prize website, which includes illustrations and advanced information for scientists. 

11.50: Some more information on those winners

“It's a highly charged story of tremendous potential, and this is all about batteries,” Olof Ramström tells us.

The three laureates are all being awarded for their work with lithium batteries, and we're now hearing a bit more about just how these works.

American John Goodenough, who was one of the favourites to win, has become the oldest ever winner of a Nobel, at the age of 97.

11.47: And the winners of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry are…

John B Goodenough, M Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino. Congratulations to the winners!

“This year's prize is about a rechargeable world,” says the Academy's Secretary General.

11.46: We're ready!

The panel has arrived and is ready to announce the winner of the prize. Here we go…

11.35: 10 minutes to go

The press conference is running on schedule, we've just been told, so we'll have the announcement in just ten minutes. Meanwhile, the press room is completely full.

11.30: Ring ring!

The winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has probably already heard their big news, judging by this picture shared by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. The winners typically only find out very shortly before the rest of the world. What a wake-up call!

11.25: Some stats and facts….

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry was first awarded in 1901, and has since been awarded 110 times to 180 individuals, who often shared the prize.

The youngest Chemistry laureate was aged just 35 when he won the Nobel, and the oldest 85.

When Marie Curie won the Chemistry prize in 1911, she became the first person to receive two Nobel Prizes, having previously picked up the award in Physics in 1903 together with her husband.

But she's not the only one to achieve that feat. Two people have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry twice: Linus Pauling and Frederick Sanger.

11.20: International media await the announcement

Members of the press from around the world have taken their places at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, where we’re expecting the big announcement within the hour.

The news will come at 11.45 “at the earliest”, according to the Academy. Swedes are known for their meticulous punctuality, but in past years there have been delays due to the difficulty of getting hold of the winners – who are often on the other side of the world.
11.15: How to talk about the Nobel Prizes without sounding stupid

Here are five Nobel anecdotes that will help you sound like you know exactly what you’re talking about. Go on, slip them into your fika break conversation today.

11.00: Who will win this year’s Chemistry Nobel?

Good morning and welcome to our Nobel Prize live blog. Today we’ll be finding out who’s won the prize in Chemistry. And you can join me, Catherine Edwards, on Twitter where I’ll be sharing updates live from the scene of the announcement.

This is the third day of Nobel week, so you can catch up on our coverage of the Medicine and Physics awards here.

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