Sigma Xi Member John B. Goodenough Receives Nobel Prize in Chemistry

October 09, 2019

Sigma Xi member John B. Goodenough was selected today by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to receive the 2019 Nobel Prize in Chemistry jointly with M. Stanley Whittingham and Akira Yoshino for the development of lithium-ion batteries. 

The Nobel Prize website notes that lithium-ion batteries have benefited mankind by laying “the foundation of a wireless, fossil fuel-free society.” They power portable electronics such as mobile phones and laptops while enabling the development of long-range electric cars and storage of energy from renewable resources such as solar and wind power.  

Goodenough is the Cockrell Chair in Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. He was inducted into Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society in 1942 while at Yale University and affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Chapter, as he was beginning his career at MIT.  
The Nobel Prize website documents how each laureate contributed to the development of lithium-ion batteries: In response to the oil crisis in the 1970s, Whittingham created an innovative cathode in a lithium battery from titanium disulphide which has spaces at a molecular level that can house lithium ions. However, the battery’s anode, partially made from metallic lithium, was too explosive to be viable. Goodenough’s contribution came in 1980, when he demonstrated that a battery cathode made of cobalt oxide could produce more volts, leading to more powerful batteries. Yoshino created the first commercially viable lithium-ion battery in 1985 with a petroleum coke anode, building off the work of Whittingham and Goodenough. 

Goodenough's battery

Goodenough's Battery

“Sigma Xi congratulates John Goodenough, M. Stanley Whittingham, and Akira Yoshino on their Nobel Prize,” said Jamie Vernon, Sigma Xi Executive Director and CEO. “Their contributions have helped us transition away from our dependence on fossil fuels for electricity, a critical step to lowering our emissions in response to climate change.”

The prize amount is 9 million Swedish krona, or U.S. $904,815, to be shared equally between the laureates. 

Updated: 7/14/20

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety