Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 11:38 GMT, Tuesday, 30 November 2010
Lithium-ion battery's place of origin awarded plaque
Lithium-ion battery
Lithium-ion batteries are used in mobile phones

Research in Oxford 30 years ago led to the development of one of the world's most popular rechargeable batteries.

The lithium-ion battery is now a part of everyday life, powering electric cars, mobile phones and laptops.

Dr Phil Wiseman said: "The idea just came out of the woodwork... our paper was the starting point."

The Royal Society of Chemistry is marking the work with a plaque at Oxford University's Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory.

'Kicking around ideas'

In the 1970s energy companies such as Exxon were looking for alternative forms of power but were delayed by a series of setbacks.

When Professor John Goodenough became head of Inorganic Chemistry at the Oxford University in 1976 his research group included assistant Dr Wiseman, Dr Koichi Mizushima and Dr Phil Jones.

They set themselves the task of looking at the potential of rechargeable batteries which began by simply "kicking around ideas on a blackboard."

"We looked at it in a different way using lithium cobalt oxide at the positive terminal and pulling the lithium out; this produced a huge cell voltage, twice that of the Exxon battery," Dr Phil Wiseman explained.

"It was this spare voltage that allowed alternatives at the other terminal where Exxon had been forced to use lithium metal which was fraught with problems.

"Instead lithium-ion material could compose both electrodes.

"Mind you, I always thought the cobalt oxide would be too reactive; we also had a fire in the lab and had to call the fire brigade."

Phil Wiseman and Phil Jones
Phil Wiseman and Phil Jones were part of the team in the 70s


The group's research was published in the Materials Research Bulletin in 1980.

The first lithium-ion battery was manufactured by Sony 10 years later.

Dr Richard Pike, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, said: "This was the first time you could charge up a device from a power point in your home.

"This was a most fundamental piece of work based on very fundamental chemistry. We're acknowledging this great event with a blue plaque."

Dr Wiseman said: "It will also be good for students to see. You never know; in one or two years' time something similarly groundbreaking could come out of their research as well."

Nanotech 'fuse' for novel battery
09 Mar 10 |  Science & Environment
UK firm launches electric scooter
06 Apr 10 |  Technology
Unsung hero in penicillin story
20 Jul 10 |  History
Vibrations 'to replace batteries'
21 Jul 10 |  Technology


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2018 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific