Currently, there is much talk about sustainable mobility and all the alternatives to build green transportation methods not harmful to the planet. However, few people know that Stanley Whittingham was (and is) a fundamental player in the development of electromobility.
Whittingham, with John B. Goodenough and Akira Yoshino, discovered the reversible electrode intercalation mechanism which opened the door to lithium-ion batteries, essential elements for today’s vehicular transport and beyond. Furthermore, their contribution was so outstanding that they received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2019.
British-American by descent, this outstanding scientist was born on December 22, 1941 in Nottingham, England. He attended Stamford School from 1951 to 1960, while chemistry knocked on his door when he attended Oxford University, obtaining a BA (1964), MA (1967), and DPhil (1968).
Stanley Whittingham’s Work
He was able to create the first lithium-ion battery in 1976, with metallic lithium at the anode and Titanium disulfide intercalated with lithium ions at the cathode with a strength of 2.5 volts, initiating (unknowingly) a scenario which significantly contributed to automakers who turned to this material for the electric vehicle power source.
However, the task was not easy, because lithium is an unstable and highly reactive chemical element. In fact, it is capable of burning under normal atmospheric conditions after combining with oxygen and water. So it took a long time to find a solution that would make this material a safe source to work with.
In order to achieve stability, lithium metal was replaced with compounds of it that would tolerate lithium ion release. Although, as mentioned above, it was not until 2019 when they received worldwide prestige and recognition for this development.
This material is currently present in electronic devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) and electric vehicles which have been part of society for decades. Also, it can store considerable amounts of wind and solar energy, in order to contribute for a society free from pollutant fuels, such as gasoline and diesel.
Written by | Ronald Ortega