Have you come across the names John Goodenough, Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino?  They were the three people to share the Nobel Prize for chemistry this year as announced in Stockholm last month. According to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, the three are primarily responsible for creating the lithium-ion batteries which have ‘laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society and are of the greatest benefit to humankind.’

Lithium-ion batteries

Lithium-ion batteries are lighter, more compact and able to hold charge for longer than earlier types of rechargeable battery, so are used in most of the devices that we use today like mobile phones, camcorders, laptops, tablets etc. They are also a key component in electric cars as illustrated by a comment to The Guardian by Professor Sara Snogerup Linse, a member of the Nobel committee for chemistry.  She said “The batteries no longer weigh two tonnes, but 300kg” and went on to add “The ability to store energy from renewable sources, the sun, the wind opens up for sustainable energy consumption.”

One of this year’s Nobel Prize winners, Stanley Whittingham began looking at lithium use in rechargeable batteries in the 1970’s as a way to develop fossil-free energy.  The ability to be able to store wind and solar power is important since the amount produced varies according to factors such as the strength of the wind and amount of daylight.  These variables mean that power may not always be directly available from these sources when it is needed, so it is important to be able to store it until such time that it is required.  However, batteries enable the power to be stored and used when needed.

Renewable Energy

We are starting to see Renewable Energy power plants where batteries are installed alongside solar farms and windfarms.  For domestic use, where customers are using solar to generate power for their own household, it can make more financial sense to store and consume the energy in a battery, rather than exporting it to the grid.  For off-grid installations, where batteries are essential, Lithium-ion batteries have a longer lifetime than previous battery technologies, which means they need to be replaced less often.

Lithium-ion batteries have also enabled electric cars to be a feasible option to replace petrol and diesel powered cars.  Increased range and fast charging, thanks to developments in battery technology, means that many people have already switched, or are considering switching, away from petrol or diesel to a more environmentally friendly and less polluting electric car.

Scientists and engineers are still continuing to develop battery technologies and work on alternative ways of storing power, but these three Nobel Prize chemists laid the foundations for this work to continue.

If you are interested in learning more about how energy can help you lower your bills and your carbon footprint, email us at Free-Sol Solar at info@free-sol.com or see us at the Costa Cálida Chronicle Trade Exhibition at the Sheraton Hotel, Hacienda del Alamo on Saturday 9th November.