Look inside any of the world’s estimated 6 billion smartphones or 16 million electric vehicles currently in use and chances are you’ll find a lithium-ion battery.

These batteries — in which lithium ions move to and from a positive and a negative electrode through a liquid solution known as an electrolyte — have revolutionized our lives by providing a reliable source of energy for electric and electronic devices, including cars.

Seminal in their development was the work of Nobel Prize winner Akira Yoshino of chemical company Asahi Kasei and Nagoya’s Meijo University. Yoshino’s research paved the way for Japanese companies to pioneer the commercialization of lithium-ion batteries, starting with Sony in 1991.