John Bannister Goodenough, 2009


For his lasting contributions to materials science and technology, especially the science underlying lithium-ion batteries.


As an innovator and pioneer in the field of materials sciences and engineering, Professor Goodenough has made numerous important and enduring contributions in a broad range of technology fields--from ceramic magnetic memory to fuel cells and to high temperature superconductors. Most notably his development of cathode materials for Li rechargeable batteries laid the foundation for the portable electronics revolution beginning with cell phones and lap-top computers, and has enabled a new generation of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles currently being commercialized around the world.

John Bannister Goodenough received a B.S. in Mathematics from Yale University in 1944, where he was a member of The Order of Skull and Bones. After serving overseas in World War II, he returned to complete a Ph.D. in Physics in 1952 under the supervision of Clarence Zener at the University of Chicago. He was a research engineer at Westinghouse before moving to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory as a research scientist and group leader from 1952 through 1976. He continued his career as Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry at Oxford University and, after retiring from Oxford, returned to the United States in 1986 to become the Virginia H. Cockerell Centennial Chair of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Professor Goodenough's early work in the 1950s included important contributions to the development of the ceramic magnetic memory cores that enabled the first random-access memory (RAM) for the digital computers used in the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) defense system, a development that contributed directly to the subsequent microelectronics revolution. His research efforts on RAM led him to develop the concepts of cooperative orbital ordering, also known as a cooperative Jahn-Teller distortion, in oxide materials, and subsequently led to his development of rules for the sign of the magnetic superexchange in materials, now known as the Goodenough-Kanamori rules.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Professor Goodenough continued his career as head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at Oxford University, where he identified and developed LixCoO2 as the cathode material of choice for the Li-ion rechargeable battery that is ubiquitous in today's portable electronic devices. Although Sony is responsible for the commercialization of the technology, he is widely credited for its original identification and development

In the 1990s, while at the University of Texas at Austin, Professor Goodenough developed the olivine cathode materials of which LiFePO4, in particular, has been commercialized for power applications. This material has proven to be inexpensive, environmentally friendly, safe, sustainable, and capable of thousands of discharge/recharge cycles with a constant output voltage, and fast discharge/recharge cycling. Batteries using this cathode material are under world-wide development for power tools, hybrid automobiles, small all-electric vehicles, and electrical energy storage in association with the alternate technologies of solar, wind, and nuclear power. Implementation of these technologies will have enormous impact by reducing America's dependence on foreign oil and the associated distributed carbon emissions. These electrical energy storage technologies will prove critical for ensuring the quality and reliability of electric power on the grid, as well as for realization of alternate energy technologies that can reduce our dependence on all types of carbon-dioxide producing fuels.

Professor Goodenough has had an extraordinarily distinguished career in materials sciences spanning over 60 years with over 600 journal publications. His research has focused on understanding the relationships among the chemistry, structure and electrical properties of solids, including transition-metal compounds and other materials, to address applications in energy, including ferroelectrics, high-Tc superconductors, magnetism, photoelectroloysis, solar collectors, solid oxide fuel cells, and catalysts. He has also explored the unusual physical properties encountered at the transition from magnetic to metallic behavior in transition-metal oxides. He has studied high pressure to understand the conditions for high-temperature superconductivity in copper oxides and the significant change in electrical resistance in manganese and cobalt oxides when a magnetic field is applied. Professor Goodenough recently identified a ceramic anode material that enables a solid oxide fuel cell to operate on natural gas.

Throughout his career, Prof. Goodenough has been a leader in the transformation of materials sciences by promoting interactions among scientists from multiple disciplines — physics, chemistry, and engineering — to address important scientific issues that have revolutionized many technological areas. His outstanding contributions have been recognized in the many honors he received from around the world, including being named Fellow of the American National Academy of Engineering, being honored with the British Chemical Society Solid State Chemistry Prize, and receiving Associate/Foreign memberships in the Materials Research Society of India, the L'Academie des Sciences de L'Insititut de France, and the Spanish Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Fiscicas y Naturales. In addition, he was honored as a Laureate of the Japan Prize in 2001 for his discoveries of the materials critical to the development of lightweight rechargeable batteries.

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Last modified: 3/18/2013 11:01:18 AM