Today, at age 97, University of Texas at Austin professor John B. Goodenough was awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry for his work in developing lithium-ion batteries, making him the oldest Nobel laureate to win the prestigious award.
Awarded by the Nobel Foundation in Stockholm, Sweden, Goodenough shares the honor with M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University in New York and Akira Yoshino of Meijo University in Nagoya, Japan.
“Lithium-ion batteries have revolutionized our lives since they first entered the market in 1991. They have laid the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society, and are of the greatest benefit to humankind,” the Nobel Foundation said of the scholars’ joint contribution to both science and society.
In 1980, Goodenough effectively expanded upon Whittingham’s discovery of an energy-rich material used to develop the cathodes in a lithium battery.
The UT Austin professor predicted that if the cathode were made of a metal oxide, as opposed to a metal sulfide, it would have greater potential, and therefore be more stable and less reactive.
In turn, this breakthrough led to the production of more powerful batteries, which Yoshino then used to develop a lightweight, rechargeable lithium-ion battery capable of being reused many times without wearing down.
The result was a breakthrough in powering many of the portable and wireless electronics, like cell phones and laptop computers, used in modern society today.
Gregory L. Fenves, president of the University of Texas at Austin, said regarding Goodenough’s Nobel prize, “Billions of people around the world benefit every day from John’s innovations. In addition to being a world-class inventor, he’s an outstanding teacher, mentor, and researcher. We are grateful for John’s three decades of contributions to UT Austin’s mission.”
Before becoming a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, Goodenough began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Lincoln Laboratory in 1952, where his work was used for the eventual development of random-access memory (RAM) in software computing.
In the 1970s, Goodenough transitioned to the energy sector after relocating to Great Britain, where he served as the Head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Oxford.
In 1986, he joined the staff of the University of Texas at Austin, where he currently serves as the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering and maintains faculty positions in the Walker Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
Goodenough earned his Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics from Yale University in 1944 and his PhD in Physics from the University of Chicago in 1952.
He is now one of four UT Austin professors to win Nobel prizes along with Steven Weinburg for physics in 1979, Ilya Prigogine for chemistry 1977, and Herman Muller for medicine and physiology in 1946.
When asked about what it meant to be awarded the prestigious honor, Goodenough said, “Live to 97 (years old) and you can do anything. I’m honored and humbled to win the Nobel prize. I thank all my friends for the support and assistance throughout my life.”
In December, Goodenough will be awarded a diploma, cash prize, and medal with the other recipients at a ceremony hosted by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Stockholm, Sweden.
- Akira Yoshino
- Binghamton University
- Gregory L. Fenves
- Herman Muller
- Ilya Prigogine
- John Goodenough
- Meijo University
- Nobel Foundation
- Nobel Prize in Chemistry
- Norwegian Nobel Committee
- Stanely Whittingham
- Steven Weinburg
- University of Chicago
- University of Oxford
- University of Texas at Austin
- Yale University
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.