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UT Professor Who Helped Develop Lithium Ion Battery Wins Nobel Prize

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

Goodenough was awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in chemistry Wednesday 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 co-creators M. Stanley Whittingham of Binghamton University in New York and Akira Yoshino of the Asahi Kasei Corporation in Tokyo.

In a conference call Wednesday, Goodenough said he plans for his share of the prize money to go toward UT.

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.

RELATED | This UT Professor Says He's Invented A Better Battery (Again)

"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 had worked long enough to see a crop of his former students retire.  

In a statement from UT Austin 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.

Goodenough is in London receiving the Copley Medal from the Royal Society. Previous recipients include Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.

UT Austin says Goodenough joins physicist Steven Weinberg as one of two Nobel laureates currently at the university. 

When Goodenough was asked Wednesday how he thinks he'll be received once he returns to UT, he replied, laughing, "I hope they still keep me employed!"

This story has been updated.

Andy Jechow is the audience engagement editor for KUT News. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter at @AndyJechow.
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