Professor Goodenough’s research proves good enough for million-dollar prize

Rachel Freeman

Mechanical Engineering UT Professor John B. Goodenough was recently awarded the Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels from Israel’s prime minister and science, technology and space minister. 

“I was surprised and honored to learn about it by a phone call from Israel,” Goodenough said in an email. “I am pleased that [my work] has enabled the wireless revolution that is empowering the poor as well as the rich of the world to communicate across the world. I am pleased that my work has contributed to the developing field of materials science and engineering.”

Goodenough won the award for his research on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are used globally as a source of alternative energy for cellphones, laptops and other wireless devices, according to the  University press release. 

Goodenough shares the win with professor Jay Keasling of the University of California, Berkeley, for his work on genetic engineering. The 1 million dollar award is the world’s largest monetary prize awarded in the field of alternative fuels. Goodenough plans to donate his winnings to UT in thanks for the university’s support of his research, according tto the press release.

The selection committee called Goodenough a “pioneer” for his invention of the first lithium-ion battery. 

This wasn’t Goodenough’s first major award. President Barack Obama presented Goodenough with the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in 2013. 

Sonya Chyu, business and Plan II freshman, said learning that such a prestigious professor is at the University is surprising. 

“I know UT tries to have a global approach but it’s surprising how impactful of a person we have here,” Chyu said, referring to Goodenough. “It’s inspiring to have someone like that here. It shows that though you might have to work for it there’s great opportunities here. Learning this makes me regard UT faculty as a whole higher now.” 

Chemistry junior Tara Tough said she was not surprised to learn about Goodenough’s accomplishments. 

“Before I came here I listened to lectures from professors so I knew coming in this was an awesome school with good professors,” Tough said. “Learning this makes me more proud about the school, it shows our motto is true. The fact that we get to learn from such great professors who are making such a big impact in the world is awesome.”