Secretary Chu Names 2009 Enrico Fermi Award Winners

University of Texas and Stanford University Professors Share Presidential Award

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Photo courtesy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy

2009 Enrico Fermi Award Winners

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U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu has named John Bannister Goodenough, Ph.D. and Siegfried S. Hecker, Ph.D., as the winners of the Enrico Fermi Award – one of the most prestigious science and technology awards awarded by the U.S. government.

The Presidential Award carries an honorarium of $375,000, which will be shared equally, and a gold medal. The award is administered on behalf of the White House by the U.S. Department of Energy. It honors the memory of Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi.

“The 2009 Enrico Fermi Award will go to two scientists who have selflessly devoted themselves to our nation’s energy and national security challenges,” said Secretary Chu before the official announcement of the award. “These two individuals are pioneers in innovative research, and I want to thank them for their work and congratulate them on this award.”

About the 2009 Enrico Fermi Award Winners

John Bannister Goodenough, Ph.D.
Goodenough, 87, is currently a professor at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair in Engineering. He received the Fermi Award in recognition for his lasting contributions to materials science and technology, especially the science underlying lithium-ion batteries.

Goodenough, a physicist, identified and developed the cathode materials for the lithium-ion rechargeable battery that is ubiquitous in today’s portable electronic devices. This material has proven to be inexpensive, environmentally friendly, safe, sustainable, and capable of thousands of charge cycles with a constant output voltage without a loss of capacity.  

Batteries incorporating this cathode material are used worldwide for cell phones and other portable wireless devices, power tools, hybrid automobiles, small all-electric vehicles, as well as increasingly for electrical energy storage for alternative energy, such as wind and solar power. As this technology continues to develop, it can be expected to have an enormous impact on the U.S. economy and the environment by helping to reduce carbon dioxide greenhouse gas emissions.

Goodenough received his Ph.D. in physics in 1952 at the University of Chicago. He was a research engineer at Westinghouse before moving to the MIT Lincoln Laboratory as a research scientist and group leader from 1952 through 1976. He continued his career as Professor and Head of Inorganic Chemistry at Oxford University. After retiring from Oxford, he returned to the United States in 1986 to join the University of Texas at Austin.

Siegfried S. Hecker, Ph.D.
Hecker, 65, was director of DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory from 1986-1997 and remained at Los Alamos as senior fellow until 2005. He currently is a research professor in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, a senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and the co-director of Center for International Security and Cooperation, all at Stanford University.  

He received the Fermi Award in recognition of his contributions to plutonium metallurgy, his broad scientific leadership and for his energetic and continuing efforts to reduce the danger of nuclear weapons around the globe. Hecker is credited with resolving a long-standing controversy involving the stability of certain structures (or phases) in plutonium alloys near equilibrium that arose from significant discrepancies between U.S. and former USSR research on plutonium metallurgy.

Hecker also contributed to the understanding of plutonium aging, which is of pivotal importance in assessing the reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. In addition, he was one of the principal architects of the science-based stockpile stewardship approach, still in use today to certify the safety and reliability of America’s nuclear deterrent.

During the latter part of his tenure at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Hecker was a pioneer in global nuclear non-proliferation and threat reduction, establishing collaborative research and mutual cooperation with the nuclear weapons laboratories in Russia and other former Soviet Republics. Hecker received a B.S. in metallurgy in 1965, an M.S. in metallurgy in 1967, and a Ph.D. in metallurgy in 1968–all from Case Western Reserve University.