Akira Yoshino, honorary fellow at Asahi Kasei Corp., has won this year's Nobel Prize in Chemistry, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences announced on Oct. 9 in Stockholm.
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Yoshino, 71, a professor at Meijo University, shares the prize with two other researchers for the development of lithium-ion batteries. The co-laureates are John Goodenough of the University of Texas, and M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University, State University of New York.
The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said lithium-ion batteries -- "secondary cell" rechargeable and reusable batteries widely used in mobile phones and laptop computers -- "have revolutionized our lives."
Yoshino appeared at a news conference at Asahi Kasei headquarters in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward shortly after the announcement at around 6:45 p.m. local time, telling reporters, "I'm happy that I've won the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry."
Yoshino follows Kyoto University professor Tasuku Honjo's win last year. It brought the number of Japanese Nobel laureates to 27, including two who have U.S. nationality.
The award ceremony is scheduled to be held on Dec. 10.
In 1983, Yoshino used polyacetylene, a type of conductive plastic, for the negative electrode in a lithium-ion battery and succeeded in maintaining a certain level of voltage. After conducting further research and experimentation, Yoshino created the basic form of the current lithium-ion battery, in which carbon-based material is used as the negative electrode.
The batteries have been in commercial production by Sony Corp. and Asahi Kasei since 1991.
A lithium-ion battery functions as lithium ions move from the positive electrode to the negative electrode when being recharged, and from the negative electrode to the positive electrode when being discharged.
The voltage of a lithium-ion battery is about 4 volts, some 2.7 times that of an alkaline battery. Therefore, such batteries can be used for various devices. Since they are light, they helped pave the way for portable computing devices including laptops and smartphones, playing a leading role in the mobile communications revolution.
The use of the batteries in electric cars is also creating hope for the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
The scale of the lithium-ion battery market surpassed 1 trillion yen (about $9.31 billion) sometime around 2011. According to Fuji Keizai Networks Co., a market research company, the market is now worth around four times that, and will exceed 7 trillion yen ($65.2 billion) in 2022.