Materials Research Activities

Stanley Whittingham introduction

Michael Stanley Whittingham

Stanley Whittingham is one of the main figures in the history of rechargeable batteries. From the late 1960s until now he has examined promising materials for use as cathode, anode, or electrolyte. He pioneered the use of titanium disulfide for cathodes, now commonly used. He also initiated the concept of intercalation. This term refers to the insertion of positively charged ions into the cathode material. In a rechargeable battery, Li+ ions are typically inserted between layers of the titanium disulfide cathode while the battery is being charged, and then de-intercalated during discharge. That the process of intercalation and de-intercalation of ions leaves the basic structure of the host material intact, so that the charge and discharge can take place repeatedly, was an understanding forged in the 1970s and early 1980s, and in which Whittingham played an important role. He has also been prominent in the field through the editing of its main journal, Solid State Ionics, from its inception in 1981. Read more about Whittingham's work in the period 1968-1984.

Whittingham went into management for a number of years (1984-1988), while the field forged ahead. Japanese companies, in particular, made great strides in the commercialization of lithium titanium disulfide rechargeable batteries. When he rejoined battery research, the Japanese lead was becoming dominant, embodied in a raft of patents.

Since 1988, Whittingham has explored further materials with a view to improving batteries still further, both with regard to size and to performance. This will not change drastically the way in which the energy economy is currently organized (for example, the electrical vehicle is not around the corner), but smaller and more powerful batteries will impact upon the cost and design of portable electronics.

This page was written and last updated on 24 November 2001 by Arne Hessenbruch.