Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri have selected John B. Goodenough, professor at The University of Texas at Austin and inventor of the lithium-ion battery, to share The Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation.

The Samson Prize, totaling $1 million, is the world’s largest monetary prize awarded in the field of alternative fuels and is granted to scientists who have made critical advancements. Goodenough plans to donate his prize money to UT Austin to thank the university for helping to support his research lab.

Goodenough, who serves as the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering in the Cockrell School of Engineering at UT Austin, will share the prize with Jay Keasling, professor in the College of Chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley. Netanyahu announced the winners Oct. 7.

The professors won the prize for technological developments that have the potential to enhance use of alternative fuels for transportation.

The selection committee called Goodenough a “pioneer” in the research of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Batteries incorporating Goodenough’s cathode materials are used worldwide for mobile phones, power tools, laptop and tablet computers and other wireless devices, as well as electric and hybrid vehicles.

Today, Goodenough continues to push the boundaries of materials science with the goal of inventing more sustainable and energy-efficient battery materials. Most recently, Goodenough and his team identified a new, safe cathode material for use in sodium-ion batteries.

“I am honored to receive this international award,” Goodenough said. “I look forward to donating the award to The University of Texas at Austin for supplementing my support of two research scientists associated with the university’s Texas Materials Institute.”

The committee recognized Keasling’s work in genetic engineering that has enabled organisms to transform cellulosic biomass to high-quality fuels. The two winners were selected by a committee of international experts who submitted their recommendations to a board of trustees headed by Yitzchak Apeloig, former president of the Technion.

“The basic scientific discoveries and the technological development of the prize recipients are advancing humanity another step toward the moment when we can use alternative energy in transportation and other purposes.” Apeloig said.

Officials from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office will present the prize to the winners Nov. 10 as part of the Fuel Choices Summit, an international conference for fuel alternatives held in Tel Aviv. The summit, in its third year, will bring together government officials, experts and senior investors from around the world.

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cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students
cover of Texas Engineering magazine with group of students