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UT Professor Who Helped Develop Lithium Ion Battery Wins Nobel Prize

UT Austin Professor John Goodenough was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his part in the creation of the lithium-ion battery.

Gabriel C Pérez/KUT
At 97, Professor John Goodenough becomes the oldest-ever Nobel laureate, seen here in 2017.

If you have a cellphone or a laptop or an electric car, you have UT Austin Professor John Goodenough to thank for helping create the lightweight, rechargeable battery that makes it work.

Today, Goodenough was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his part in the creation of the lithium-ion battery, almost 35 years after it became commercially viable.

Goodenough shares the Nobel — and its 9 million kronor (or $981,000) in prize money — with his co-creators, M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University in New York and Akira Yoshino of the Asahi Kasei Corporation in Tokyo.

In an interview with KUT’s Mose Buchele in 2017, Goodenough said he hopes his work helps power a “big revolution” that will reduce the world’s dependence on carbon-emitting technology.

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“The fact of the matter is that modern society cannot continue to be dependent on fossil fuels,” he said. “How are you going to get your energy supply into balance with what is sustainable?”

At 97 years old, Goodenough is the oldest-ever Nobel laureate. In 2017, he joked that he’d worked long enough to see a crop of his former students retire.

In a statement from UT Austin today announcing his award, Goodenough said he was honored and humbled to win the prize after a long career.

“Live to 97 and you can do anything,” he said.

After leaving the University of Oxford in 1986, Goodenough joined UT Austin, where he holds faculty positions in the departments of mechanical engineering and electrical and computer engineering.

UT Austin says Goodenough joins physicist Steven Weinberg as one of two Nobel laureates currently at the university. He’s currently in London receiving the Copley Medal from the Royal Society. Previous recipients include Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

This story has been updated.