Dr. John Goodenough, the renowned scientist credited with inventing the lithium-ion battery, has passed away at the age of 100, according to the University of Texas at Austin. While his name may not be widely known, his groundbreaking work made cellphones, laptops, and electric vehicles feasible.
Although researchers had been exploring lithium batteries previously, it was Goodenough who achieved a significant breakthrough in 1980. While at the University of Oxford, he developed a cathode using layers of lithium and cobalt oxide, which not only generated a higher voltage but also greatly improved safety. This innovation offered much greater capacity compared to earlier battery technologies like lead-acid and nickel-cadmium.
The practical design for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries came later when Dr. Akira Yoshino replaced raw lithium with safer lithium ions. Working for Asahi Kasei Corporation, Yoshino’s efforts led to Sony launching the first consumer-friendly rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1991. This advancement paved the way for smaller, faster, and more long-lasting mobile devices, as well as the viability of electric cars.
Goodenough’s contributions extended beyond the lithium-ion battery. During his time at MIT in the 1950s and 1960s, he played a key role in pioneering the technology that eventually became random access memory (RAM) in computing devices. He collaborated with colleagues on numerous patents and remained an active researcher well into his 90s, working on next-generation battery technologies for renewable energy and electric vehicles.
Despite his relative anonymity in public circles, Goodenough received recognition for his work, including the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2019 and the US National Medal of Science in 2011.
While industries are gradually exploring alternatives to lithium-ion batteries, such as solid-state batteries, it is undeniable that the modern technological landscape owes much to Goodenough’s contributions. His legacy will continue to shape the field for years to come.