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Goodenough, Bard Win National Medals of Science

President Obama awarded medals to not one but TWO University of Texas at Austin scientists! The tower will be lit Feb. 12 in their honor. Learn more.

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Professors Allen Bard and John Goodenough are two of 12 eminent researchers to receive the highest honor bestowed by the United States government upon scientists, engineers and inventors, making UT Austin the only institution with more than one medal recipient this year.

President Barack Obama presented the National Medals of Science to recipients in a White House ceremony Feb. 1.

“I am proud to honor these inspiring American innovators,” Obama said. “They represent the ingenuity and imagination that has long made this nation great and they remind us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are unleashed in an entrepreneurial environment.”

Chemistry professor Allen Bard with President Barack Obama

Allen Bard with President Obama. [Photo by Ryan K Morris/National Science and Technology Medals Foundation] 

Bard, the Norman Hackerman-Welch Regents Chair in Chemistry and director of the Center for Electrochemistry, has been called the “father of modern electrochemistry” by his colleagues. His pioneering work in electrochemistry led to the development of the scanning electrochemical microscope (SECM), which is used as an analytical tool in chemistry labs around the world to discover new materials for technologies such as solar cells and batteries, and to investigate the inner workings of biological cells.

Bard and his group were among the first to explore and develop a way to use electrochemistry to generate light, providing a very sensitive and selective method of analysis. Today, this electrogenerated chemiluminescence (ECL) technique is used widely for biological and medical analyses, such as detecting HIV and analyzing DNA.

He and his team were also the first to investigate the electrochemistry of particle semiconductors for solar energy conversion and the decomposition of pollutants using light. And their research on solar cells has led to the development of light-based high-density computer memory.

Bard’s textbook, “Electrochemical Methods Fundamentals and Applications,” co-authored with Larry Faulkner, president emeritus of The University of Texas at Austin, has been in print for more than three decades and is the fundamental textbook in the field in electrochemistry. The book has taught an entire generation the principles of electrochemistry.

Engineering professor John Goodenough with President Barack Obama

John Goodenough with President Obama. [Photo by Ryan K Morris/National Science and Technology Medals Foundation] 

Goodenough, the Virginia Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering, is best known for identifying and developing critical materials now used worldwide in rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. He also contributed to the development of the magnetic elements used in random-access memory, a key milestone in the development of the digital computer.

In the early 1970s, the first energy crisis challenged Goodenough to turn his attention to materials to enable energy conservation, more efficient energy conversion and electrical energy storage. As head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory of the University of Oxford, he turned his attention to electrochemistry and catalytic chemistry. With his Oxford Group, he developed the layered and spinel oxides used in cathodes in the lithium-ion batteries that have enabled the wireless revolution and catalytic concepts for the electrode reactions on oxides in room-temperature as well as high-temperature fuel cells.

In 1986 Goodenough retired from Oxford to come to Texas, where he has continued work on lithium-ion batteries. He has developed oxide-ion electrolytes as well as both oxide anodes and cathodes for the solid oxide fuel cell, and he has returned to his fundamental studies of transition-metal oxides.

Goodenough’s studies have been characterized by a confluence of solid-state physics, solid-state chemistry and electrochemistry that has transformed our understanding of oxides and their applications in technologies that have transformed society during the past 50 years.

The University of Texas at Austin faculty includes two other recipients of the National Medal of Science: astrophysicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg and mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck. Chemical engineering professor Adam Heller and chemistry professor C. Grant Willson are recipients of the National Medal of Technology and Innovation.

The National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering. A committee of presidential appointees selects nominees on the basis of their extraordinary knowledge in and contributions to chemistry, engineering, computing, mathematics, or the biological, behavioral/social and physical sciences.

Related content:

National Medal of Science video profile of Allen Bard

Feature story about Allen Bard’s work to developed sustainable fuels based on the photosynthetic machinery of plants: Fueled by the Sun: Mimicking Plants

Profile of Allen Bard: A Curious Life: Bard Stays Focused on Colleagues, Fundamental Research

National Medal of Science video profile of John Goodenough

Video of Goodenough reflecting on his work and contributions to science and engineering: One Day at a Time Reflections by John Goodenough

Feature story about Goodenough and his many awards: Professor John B. Goodenough Honored by IEEE, NAS and UTME for Achievements