BINGHAMTON, NY – Hundreds of interviews, thousands of congratulatory emails.
It’s been a whirlwind month for Binghamton University Professor M Stanley Whittingham since he was announced as the 2019 Nobel Prize for Chemistry.
We recently managed to find our way onto his busy calendar for a one-on-one interview in his office on campus.
Stan Whittingham takes great pride in showing off his labs and dedicated graduate students.
That includes a zero humidity dry room that just became fully operational earlier this year.
He says he and the 2 men he shares the award with are all still active in their research.
The invention is known as the lithium-ion battery.
It’s a lighter-weight, smaller rechargeable battery and don’t contain many of the toxic metals of other batteries.
Whittingham first received a patent for the technology while working for Exxon in the early 70’s.
And while research continued through the 80’s, it was only when SONY made them commercially viable in the 90’s that their usage took off.
Stan Whittingham says, “Apple came along and said, ‘We can make smart phones.’ And those would not have been possible without lithium ion batteries. Same with laptop computers. You couldn’t have these thin computers without lithium ion batteries. So, it’s been amazing and delightful to see things coming from the lab bench into real products.”
Whittingham says he expects that the publicity that comes with the prize will lead more students to want to attend BU and make it easier to secure federal and state research funding.
He says people have finally stopped asking him ‘Where is Binghamton?’
Stan Whittingham says, “Everybody had looked it up. People were telling me that that was one of the most hottest items on Google Search for awhile. It’s clearly put the university on the map.”
In 1988, after 16 years in the private sector, Whittingham accepted a position at BU. It’s a decision he’s glad he made.
Stan Whittingham says, “We can interact across disciplines without any issues at all. There’s no fiefdoms here. Lately, the state has been very good in giving us funding. We’d obviously like to do more here.”
Whittingham says that beyond the smart phones, power tools and electric cars, he sees lithium-ion batteries playing a role in large scale energy storage, reducing the need to burn fossils fuels for electricity.
That way, his invention will not only benefit Binghamton University, but the world’s environment.
Whittingham receives his award on December 10th in Stockholm, Sweden.