UT pro­fes­sor, 97, wins No­bel Prize

John B. Good­e­nough, 2 oth­ers hon­ored for lithium­ion dis­cov­er­ies

The Dallas Morning News - - FRONT PAGE - By MARÍA MÉN­DEZ Austin Bureau [email protected]­las­news.com

AUSTIN — At 97 years old, Uni­ver­sity of Texas Pro­fes­sor John B. Good­e­nough is still fill­ing the world with his en­ergy.

Good­e­nough in the 1970s de­vel­oped the lithium­ion bat­tery, a recharge­able bat­tery that paved the way for portable elec­tron­ics and that still pow­ers lap­tops, cell­phones and elec­tric cars. He was awarded the No­bel Prize in chem­istry Wed­nes­day for this in­ven­tion along with Akira Yoshino, 71, and M. Stan­ley Whit­ting­ham, 77, who co­cre­ated the bat­tery with Good­e­nough while at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford.

Good­e­nough, a Ger­man­born en­gi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor who has taught at UT since 1986, is now the old­est per­son to win the No­bel Prize. Arthur Ashkin, 96, was awarded the physics prize last year.

“Live to 97 and you can do any­thing,” Good­e­nough said in a pre­pared state­ment. “I’m hon­ored and hum­bled to win the No­bel prize. I thank all my

friends for the sup­port and as­sis­tance through­out my life.”

Good­e­nough, who heard the news Wed­nes­day while on a Lon­don trip to re­ceive the Co­p­ley Medal from the Royal So­ci­ety, told re­porters he was sur­prised.

“I’ve had an in­ter­est­ing ca­reer, and I don’t know if it was by chance or grace,” he said with a laugh.

But his con­tri­bu­tions are no joke. The No­bel Foun­da­tion said Good­e­nough, Yoshino and Whit­ting­ham’s work “cre­ated the right con­di­tions for a wire­less and fos­sil fu­el­free so­ci­ety, and so brought the great­est ben­e­fit to hu­mankind.”

Yoshino praised Good­e­nough for con­tin­u­ing his re­search de­spite his age. Good­e­nough and his UT team iden­ti­fied a new, safe ma­te­rial for use in sodium­ion bat­ter­ies just two years ago.

These bat­ter­ies can store up to three times more power than cur­rent ones and charge within min­utes with­out ex­plod­ing.

Good­e­nough said he will give his share of the No­bel prize money to sup­port the on­go­ing work at UT Austin. He and his co­cre­ators will be awarded about $981,000 in to­tal.

Bat­ter­ies have come a long way thanks to Good­e­nough, but he said they have their lim­i­ta­tions and he hopes fel­low sci­en­tists will con­tinue work­ing on more ef­fi­cient ways to power cars.

“In the next decade, I cer­tainly hope we will have some more elec­tric ve­hi­cles,” he said. “There are a lot of peo­ple do­ing good work, but we need to get the burn­ing of fos­sil fu­els off the high­ways and speed­ways of the world, so that we’ ll step up on global warm­ing.”

Good­e­nough al­ready had a sto­ried ca­reer be­fore win­ning the premier prize.

While at the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Lincoln Lab­o­ra­tory in 1952, he laid the ground­work for the devel­op­ment of random­ac­cess mem­ory (RAM) for com­put­ers. He then be­came the head of the In­or­ganic Chem­istry Lab­o­ra­tory at the Uni­ver­sity of Ox­ford, where he made the lithium­ion dis­cov­ery. He has also won the Na­tional Medal of Sci­ence and var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional hon­ors.

But Good­e­nough said his proud­est ac­com­plish­ments are his friend­ships, and he is happy his con­tri­bu­tion to the wire­less revo­lu­tion brought peo­ple closer.

“I’m ex­tremely happy to be able to work to build com­mu­ni­ca­tions through­out the world,” he said. “We need to build re­la­tion­ships, not walls. We will be happy if peo­ple use this for good and not for evil.”

Yoshino said that he has vis­ited Good­e­nough in Texas al­most ev­ery year.

“For him, I’m like his son,” Yoshino said. “He takes very good care of me.”

Good­e­nough said when he re­turns to the Uni­ver­sity of Texas from Lon­don, he won’t be ready to stop work­ing.

“I hope they keep me em­ployed,” he joked.

UT Pres­i­dent Gre­gory L. Fenves said the uni­ver­sity is grate­ful for Good­e­nough’s con­tri­bu­tions to UT’S mis­sion of chang­ing the world. The uni­ver­sity planned to light the UT Tower in his honor.

“Bil­lions of peo­ple around the world ben­e­fit ev­ery day from John’s in­no­va­tions,” Fenves said in a pre­pared state­ment. “In ad­di­tion to be­ing a world­class in­ven­tor, he’s an out­stand­ing teacher, men­tor and re­searcher.”

Alastair Grant/the As­so­ci­ated Press

At 97, Uni­veristy of Texas pro­fes­sor John. B. Good­e­nough is the old­est per­son to ever win a No­bel Prize.

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