Four engineers, including two Japanese, received Draper Prize, the highest honor engineers, for developing lithium-ion batteries. Such batteries are the technology used in powering cellphones and other portable electronics.
The two Japanese engineers are Asahi Kasei Corp. fellow Akira Yoshino, 66, and Yoshio Nishi, 72, a former Sony Corp. executive, were awarded by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering with what is known as the “Nobel Prize of engineering.”
The invention of lithium-ion batteries made possible cellphones, laptop computers, cameras and other electronics that rely on miniaturized, rechargeable power sources. The batteries are also used in electric cars and in airplanes.
Analysts forecast that the market for the batteries will reach more than $60 billion by 2020, the local press reports, citing Kyodo news agency.
Yoshino was the one who built the prototype for the lithium-ion batteries in 1985, while Nishi helped building a safer version of them.
“This is a technology that Japan led the world in successfully implementing,” Nishi said. “The results we achieved show the power of forward-looking corporate research.”
“Being recognized by the U.S. Academy is exceptional. I am really happy,” Yoshino added.
The four engineers will share a prize of $500,000. The other two awarded engineers are Rachid Yazami of France’s National Center for Scientific Research and John B. Goodenough of the University of Texas.