Nobel-winning lithium battery inventor John Goodenough dies at 100

John Goodenough, who shared the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing the lithium-ion battery that revolutionized modern life, has died at the age of 100, the University of Texas has announced.

Goodenough died on Sunday, said the university, where he worked as an engineering professor.

The US scientist’s contributions to the development of lithium-ion batteries paved the way for smartphones and a fossil fuel-free society.

“John’s legacy as a brilliant scientist is immeasurable — his discoveries improved the lives of billions of people around the world,” Jay Hartzell, president of the University of Texas at Austin, said in the statement.

“He was a leader at the cutting edge of scientific research throughout the many decades of his career.”

In 1986, at the age of 64, Goodenough joined the University of Texas where he served as a faculty member in the Cockrell School of Engineering for 37 years.

“The world has lost an incredible mind and generous spirit. He will be truly missed among the scientific and engineering community, but he leaves a lasting legacy that will inspire generations of future innovators and researchers,” said Sharon Wood, provost of the University of Texas.

Goodenough became the oldest person to win a Nobel Prize when at the age of 97 he shared the 2019 chemistry award with Britain’s Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino of Japan for the invention of the lithium-ion battery.

Seeking an alternative source of power during the oil crisis of the 1970s, Whittingham discovered a way to harness the potential energy in lithium, a metal so light it floats on water.

However, the battery he constructed was too unstable to be used.

Goodenough built on Whittingham’s prototype, substituting a different metal compound and doubling the potential energy of the battery to four volts.

This paved the way for far more powerful and durable batteries in the future.

In 1985, Yoshino instead used a carbon-based material that stores lithium ions, finally rendering the battery commercially viable.

The culmination of the trio’s research resulted in the most powerful, lightweight and rechargeable battery ever seen.

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