STOCKHOLM — The 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has been awarded to former MIT Lincoln Labs researcher John B. Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries.

The Nobel Committee said: ‘‘Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives and are used in everything from mobile phones to laptops and electric vehicles. Through their work, this year’s Chemistry Laureates have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.’’

With the glory comes a 9-million kronor ($918,000) cash award to be shared, a gold medal and a diploma. The laureates receive them at an elegant ceremony in Stockholm on Dec. 10 the anniversary of Nobel’s death in 1896 together with five other Nobel winners. The sixth one, the peace prize, is handed out in Oslo, Norway, on the same day.


Goodenough, an American who is 97 years old, graduated from Yale University in 1943 and spent some 20 years working at the MIT’s Lincoln Labs, according to MIT and the University of Texas-Austin where he has been a professor since 1986.

Goodenough’s work was based on research done by Whittingham who created an early version of a lithium battery during the oil crisis of the 1970s. But the materials he used were dangerously explosive, the committee said.

According to his biography at the University of Texas and the Nobel committee, Goodenough left the Lincoln Labs and then joined the University of Oxford where he made his breakthrough discoveries in 1979 and 1980.

“After a systematic search, in 1980 he demonstrated that cobalt oxide with intercalated lithium ions can produce as much as four volts,’’ the Nobel citation reads. “This was an important breakthrough and would lead to much more powerful batteries.”

Yoshino, in turn drew, on Goodenough’s discovery and in 1985 created the first commercially successful lithium-ion battery.


“The result was a lightweight, hardwearing battery that could be charged hundreds of times before its performance deteriorated,’’ the Nobel committee wrote. “The advantage of lithium-ion batteries is that they are not based upon chemical reactions that break down the electrodes, but upon lithium ions flowing back and forth between the anode and cathode.”

John R. Ellement of the Globe Staff contributed to this report.