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Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019: a close look from an ICMAB point of view (by M. Rosa Palacín and Josep Fontcuberta)

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 was awarded on October 9, 2019, jointly to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries. At the ICMAB we are very happy for this award, for several reasons: Josep Fontcuberta was a former postdoc fellow of Goodenough, in Oxford; and Goodenough was once a member of our Scientific Advisory Board! Moreover, M. Rosa Palacín, researcher in the batteries field, has met all three of them, and has continued their work, developing post lithium-ion batteries at the ICMAB! In this post, both researchers have written some words on this matter! Continue reading!

10 October 2019

Prof. M. Rosa Palacín, Deputy Director of ICMAB, and researcher in the Solid State Chemistry Group, writes: 

"The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2019 was yesterday awarded jointly to John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

This technology is rooted in the study of intercalation chemistry in inorganic materials developed in the 70’s. The potential in energy storage was soon realized through the cell prototypes developed by Stan Whittingham using TiS2 cathodes, which were even used in solar-rechargeable power demonstrators. Later on, John Goodenough understood that oxides would enable higher voltages than sulfides and suggested the use of LiCoO2 instead, which is still employed in commercial batteries today. Finally, the picture would not be complete if the potential of carbonaceous anodes in organic liquid electrolytes had not been realized by Akira Yoshino.

On a personal notice, I have always been impressed by the interdisciplinary talent of John Goodenough, his strong personality and exhilarating sense of humor and by the kindness and vision of Stan Whittingham, always willing to discuss science giving wise advice and support to young researchers. He was one of the main enthusiasts pushing me to the organization of the IBA2013 (International Battery Association) meeting in Barcelona, to which Akira Yoshino was also invited, a memorable experience which I will never forget.

These three pioneers and others that followed were the seed of the battery research community, involving today thousands of researchers all around the world, including a few ICMABers.  A community that warmly reacted to the so long awaited news. My most sincere congratulations, proud to be standing on the shoulders of such giants!" 

 Prof. Josep Fontcuberta, researcher at the Laboratory of Multifunctional Thin Films and Complex Structures (MULFOX), writes: 

"The Nobel prize of Chemistry, awarded this year 2019 to J.B. Goodenough, has been longly waited by a large community of material’s scientist. This is a recognition to the “Oxide Science and Technology” and its impact on society. The brilliant mind of J. B.Goodenough allowed to rationalize the electric and magnetic properties of metal oxides, discovering the clues that govern these properties and providing the tools to understand and transform them into functional materials. It is an amazing coincidence, that on the 150 anniversary of the periodic table, the Nobel award on Chemistry has recognized the enormous knowledge of J. B. Goodenough and ability to combine chemical elements, in their most common oxide form, to create magnets and batteries that have changed our life. His books on “Transition metal oxides” and “Magnetism and Chemical bond” and his crucial intuition and perseverance on the role of oxides to store electric charge in batteries, constitute pillars of our culture that are going to last forever.

J.B. Goodenough hosted me as a young postdoc at Oxford University, when he was the head of Inorganic Laboratory. There, I enjoyed his exhilarating humanity, his respect for the young students and his deep knowledge and enthusiasm. The giant was convinced that there this a lot of randomness and fortune in decisions and life, but one need to be there. He tried to teach me, how to wear a tie (without much success), and he contaminated me with his passion the intricate “lego” world of oxides.

Latter, J. B. Goodenough became member of the International Advisory Committee of the Materials Science Institutes of the CSIC, including the ICMAB.

The warmest congratulations and beyond the Oslo party, keep the strength to blow the next coming 98 candles.!"

More information:

Read more about this year’s prize:

Short Bios:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Cover Figure: Goodenough,Whittingham and Yoshino. © Nobel Media.



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