2019 Nobel-winning pioneer of lithium-ion batteries shares his views on renewable energy

Professor M. Stanley Whittingham poses with students at Binghamton University after news of his winning the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry

The pioneer of lithium-ion batteries speaks to BASF about a fossil-fuel-free future.

Chances are—you’re currently reading this article on your mobile phone or your laptop—and you have M. Stanley Whittingham, 78, Ph.D., to thank for that. Whittingham is not only the key figure in the history of the development of lithium-ion batteries, he’s also the founding father of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These lightweight yet powerful and rechargeable batteries are used in everything today—from smart phones to laptops and even electric vehicles.

It is no wonder that the British transplant is one of three scientists who was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the development of lithium-ion batteries (the other two scientists who developed and further evolved lithium-ion batteries after Whittingham include John B. Goodenough, with whom Whittingham co-wrote a book, and Akira Yoshino from Japan).

Whittingham was the first of the three laureates to tackle fossil-fuel-free energy back in the 1970s during the oil crisis, while being employed at Exxon. That’s when he worked on developing methods that could lead to fossil-fuel-free energy technologies. He started researching superconductors and discovered an exceptionally energy-rich material that he used to create an innovative cathode in a lithium-ion battery. This was made from titanium disulfide—which had never been used in batteries before and at an atomic level allows lithium ions to move between its layers. This resulted in the first functional rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

After 16 years at Exxon, Whittingham moved on to academia and has worked as professor of Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering at Binghamton University in New York since 1988. He’s married to a fellow professor of Spanish, Georgina, has two children and four grandchildren.

Whittingham holds 16 patents, co-wrote five books, contributed to more than 200 publications and has won seven awards for his work, including the esteemed Nobel Prize. Nevertheless, the prolific scientist found time to sit down with BASF for an interview.

The Nobel laureate is well acquainted with the chemical company. He provided consulting services to BASF’s Catalysts division in Iselin, NJ on lithium-ion batteries and battery materials back in 2006. He also took part in The Science Award Electrochemistry award ceremony last year in Wolfsburg, Germany—a joint initiative of Volkswagen and BASF aimed at young scientists of excellence in electrochemistry. Most recently, in an opportunity to honor the Nobel laureate, BASF’s Battery Materials site in Beachwood, OH named one of its conference rooms after the British professor […]

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