Spotlight on Nishi-san
What motivated you to work in the batteries field?
I enjoy a technical challenge! But also, I wanted to work on something that would have an impact on many people’s lives, and rechargeable batteries certainly do that.
The performance of today’s cells have been improved but are still some way short of what consumers would like, for example in their cell phones and laptops.
Are you also frustrated by this problem?
Actually, I hardly use my cell phone! The battery can last a week before charging, but I think I am an exception! As battery power has increased, device manufacturers and application software companies have found more ways to improve the user experience, but often this placed more demands on the power source. I think this will continue. Some applications require higher capacity per unit weight and unit volume, while others need the highest possible discharge rate, so there is one more than one solution required.
Do you think we will still use batteries in 100 years’ time?
Well, they have been around for 2000 years so far, so I think they will be used, but in quite different forms and using different materials. There are something like 110 million types of cell possible, but only around 30 have been found practical to date. Companies like Nexeon are pushing into new territory with the materials they are developing and this is essential if we are to have access to next generation products such as the varieties of electric vehicles now being conceived.
What is the proudest moment in your career?
I think it was a very exciting time in the 1980s, when my team at Sony Corporation was able to develop and the commercially introduce the forerunner of the lithium ion battery that has become the standard today. Of course, I am also delighted to have been awarded a Draper Prize this year, recognising the contribution we have made.
You are now formally retired, but still working hard. How do you spend your time?
I’m working with several companies, including Nexeon. Every day is different, and I spend time at several companies each week advising on many different development programmes. For good health, however, it is essential to ease the tension on and off, and listening to Mozart’s music relaxes me.