Prof. John Goodenough, CEC faculty member at the University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, and Prof. Jay Keasling, of the University of California at Berkeley’s College of Chemistry, are the 2015 winners of the Eric and Sheila Samson Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation in Alternative Fuels for Transportation.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced the recipients’ names on October 7, 2015. The $1 million shared prize was awarded to the two professors on November 10 at the Fuel Choices Summit in Tel Aviv. The prize was given for their respective work on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and on genetic engineering research that has enabled organisms to transform cellulosic biomass to high quality biofuels.
Describing Goodenough as a “pioneer in the research of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries,” the committee said that Goodenough’s inventions have provided the basis for a wide range of batteries 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.”
“This is the most important and largest prize in the world in its field, which reflects a real appreciation of the researchers for their efforts, and supports the advancement of technological breakthroughs in the sector of alternative fuels,” Netanyahu said. “We are investing in a multiyear effort to be freed from the global dependence on oil.”
The prime minister established the contest in 2013 in conjunction with Israel's approval of its $380 million Fuel Choices Initiative program, which aims to revolutionize the alternative transportation field in Israel and abroad. The prize is jointly administered by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Science and Technology Ministry.
Keasling, is the Hubbard Howe Jr. Distinguished Professor of Biochemical Engineering at Berkeley, the associate laboratory director for biosciences at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the CEO and vice president of fuels synthesis at the US Department of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute.