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Global Energy Prize awarded to lithium-ion inventor

Fri, 07/12/2013 - 18:36 -- Ruth Williams
Dr Akira Yoshino

Dr Akira Yoshino has been awarded the Global Energy Prize for his invention of the lithium-ion battery, marking the first time the award has gone to a battery technology. On winning the award he said it is important for electrochemistry as a field.

Dr Yoshino began working on the lithium-ion battery in 1981, it was commercialised in 1992 and began the boom in portable electronics.

Dr Yoshino was the first to use electrically conductive polymers for the negative electrode, this improved cycle life and gave higher capacity than previous rechargeable batteries. He combined this with a positive electrode made of lithium-cobalt oxide. “This really was the origin of the lithium-ion battery, this combination of polyacetalyne and lithium-cobalt oxide for the two electrodes,” said Yoshino.

“The big breakthrough came when I changed the negative electrode from polyacetalyne to a carbonaceous material, which offered improved density and was less bulky,” he added.

Yoshino said the highlight of his career came in 1985: “The prototype lithium-ion battery I made in my laboratory showed a very high voltage. For rechargeable batteries the voltage had previously been 1.4 V but this prototype was 4 V. It was very impressive for me, I think it is one of the highlights of my life.”

He was awarded this year’s Global Energy Prize, presented by Russian President Vladimir Putin, on June 21st. Yoshino said: “This year is the first time battery technology has won the prize, which is an important step for batteries.”

The Global Energy Prize has been running for 11 years and is awarded to people who have made significant contributions in the fields of energy and energy storage. Since 2002, 27 people have received the peer-nominated award.