At 97 years old, U.S. engineer John B. Goodenough has just won the Nobel Prize in chemistry.
Goodenough won the award alongside two other scientists — Stanley Whittingham of the U.K. and Akira Yoshino of Japan — for their work in contributing to the development of lithium-ion batteries.
Though the award is shared among the three laureates, Goodenough holds his own unique title of being the oldest person to win a Nobel Prize. According to the official Nobel Prize site, Arthur Ashkin, who won the Nobel prize in physics at age 96, was the previous record holder in 2018.
The development of lithium-ion batteries
The three scientists’ work to develop the first lithium-ion battery in the early 1970s was purely transformational to the world as we know it. If you’re reading this article on a laptop or smartphone right now, know that your electronic device is powered by none other than the lithium-ion battery.
“We all rely on lithium-ion batteries every single day. We rely on lithium-ion batteries to deliver this conversation,” confirmed Paul Shearing, a chemical-engineering professor at University College London, on a call with The Wall Street Journal. The batteries essentially provide us with portable power, wherever we go.
Moreover, these batteries open the door for sustainable energy consumption, as lithium-ion batteries can be combined with fluctuating energy sources, such as solar power. Fossil-fuel transportation has decreased, while electric transportation has grown, and it’s all thanks to these scientists.
A wireless, fossil-fuel free planet
“I’m extremely happy the lithium-ion batteries [have] helped communications around the world,” Goodenough said Wednesday in a conference call with reporters. “We are indeed happy that people use this for good and not evil.”
From wireless communication to the cultivation of sustainable energy, researchers across the globe are still working to advance these batteries and improve science. In developing new batteries and expanding the boundaries of chemistry each day, our planet will move further away from fossil-fuel production and, in turn, boost sustainable energy options.
And as for Goodenough? According to CNN, even at the age of 97, he is tirelessly developing new battery concepts and polymers alongside his fellow researchers.
“First, know yourself. Don’t just try to copy what other people do,” Goodenough concluded in an exclusive interview with the Royal Society of Chemistry. “Find out who you are and what your talents are and devote them to [solving the numerous problems of the world].”