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In Nobel speech, Japanese winner Akira Yoshino says lithium-ion batteries will play key role in achieving sustainable society

Kyodo, JIJI

Japanese chemist Akira Yoshino, one of three winners of this year’s Nobel Prize in chemistry for contributions to the development of lithium-ion batteries, said in his Nobel lecture on Sunday that such batteries will play a key role in achieving a sustainable society.

Lithium-ion batteries “will play a central role” in achieving a sustainable society in which the environment, economy and convenience are balanced in harmony, the 71-year-old honorary fellow at Asahi Kasei Corp. and professor at Meijo University said at Stockholm University in Sweden. “Our world will change dramatically.”

In the lecture, titled “Brief History and Future of Lithium-ion Batteries,” Yoshino underscored that the development of the batteries can be linked with that of AI, the “internet of things” and next-generation wireless networks.

Behind the discovery of a key electrode material were research results achieved by two other Japanese Nobel laureates — the late Kenichi Fukui and University of Tsukuba professor emeritus Hideki Shirakawa, 83, Yoshino said.

Lithium-ion batteries are “very, very fortunate fellows,” born with the support of eight Nobel laureates, Yoshino said.

Regarding a reason for selection of the lithium-ion battery researchers for this year’s prize, Yoshino cited expectations for the batteries’ contributions to efforts to build a sustainable society.

“Innovation all around will enable a sustainable society to be achieved very soon,” Yoshino said.

The clash between environmental protection and the pursuit of economy and convenience can be resolved, he said, expressing confidence about the role lithium-ion batteries will play.

Among his best decisions in life, he cited his advance to Kyoto University and his marriage to his wife, Kumiko, 71. Yoshino drew laughter when he described her as a “wonderful woman.”

When he finished the lecture he received thunderous applause, and shook hands with John Goodenough, an American and one of the three co-winners of this year’s prize, who attended Yoshino’s lecture in a wheelchair.

The lecture is one of a series of events during Nobel Week, including a news conference with other laureates Saturday and the awards ceremony on Tuesday.

Yoshino, who was born in Osaka Prefecture, shared the award with Goodenough and Stanley Whittingham of the U.K.

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