This editorial first appeared in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
Scientific inquiry thrives on visionaries thinking unconventionally. Such inquiry is fundamental to our evolving views of the universe, to the development of the physical sciences, and to our ability to enjoy world-changing commercial products.
This devotion to curiosity led John Goodenough, now 97 and a professor at the University of Texas since 1986, to develop the lithium-ion battery in the 1970s. And now, decades after his monumental breakthrough, Goodenough goes into history as the recipient of the Nobel Prize in chemistry — a high honor he shares with Akira Yoshino, 71, and M. Stanley Whittingham, 77, who co-created the battery with Goodenough while at the University of Oxford.
This rechargeable battery has been the gold standard for mobile batteries, emerging as the most efficient energy source to power laptops, cellphones, electric cars and virtually all mobile devices. By packing more power in smaller, lighter packages that store energy longer, millions of us can work and play virtually anywhere in the world. And beyond the impact on world economies, Goodenough’s accomplishment could boost clean energy in a world contending with the long-term impacts of fossil fuels and climate change.
Too often we take science for granted, including the vast computing power we carry in our pockets each day. And for years, the Nobel Committee and Goodenough himself also seemed not to appreciate the impact lithium ion research would have on generations and society. “At the time we developed the battery, it was just something to do,” Goodenough told the London-based Times newspaper earlier this year. “I didn’t know what electrical engineers would do with the battery. I really didn’t anticipate cellphones, camcorders and everything else.”
As many have echoed, and Goodenough demonstrates, the science of today is the technology of tomorrow. For that, we should rejoice in his great and lasting accomplishment.