Creators of Lithium-ion Battery and Pioneers of Innovative Education Model Win Engineering’s Highest Honors


Mon, January 06, 2014

Washington, DC, January 06, 2014 —

This year's highest honors in the engineering profession, presented by the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), recognize the groundbreaking creation of the lithium-ion battery and the development of an innovative engineering curriculum that encourages entrepreneurship and leadership.

John B. Goodenough, Yoshio Nishi, Rachid Yazami, and Akira Yoshino will receive the Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering — a $500,000 annual award that honors engineers whose accomplishments have significantly benefited society — “for engineering the rechargeable lithium-ion battery that enables compact, lightweight mobile devices.” The prize will be presented at a gala event in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18, 2014. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Draper Prize. Past winners can be found at

John Collier, Robert Graves, Joseph Helble, and Charles Hutchinson will receive the Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education — a $500,000 award presented annually that recognizes innovation in engineering and technology education — “for creating an integrated program in engineering innovation from undergraduate through doctorate to prepare students for engineering leadership.” Half of the prize is awarded to the winners' institution, Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, to support the continued development, refinement, and dissemination of the recognized innovation. The award will be presented in Hanover, N.H., on May 2, 2014.

“The NAE’s major prizes for 2014 highlight the dramatic impacts of engineering innovations on people and society, and they inspire new ideas about educating the next generation of great innovators,” said C.D. Mote,Jr. president of the National Academy of Engineering. “I congratulate the prize winners on their achievements, and thank them on behalf of all beneficiaries of their creativity.”

The Charles Stark Draper Prize for Engineering

The lithium-ion battery is used by millions of people around the world in cell phones, laptops, tablets, hearing aids, cameras, power tools, and many other compact, lightweight mobile devices. John B. Goodenough, Yoshio Nishi, Rachid Yazami, and Akira Yoshino each made substantial contributions to its development.

In 1979, John B. Goodenough showed that by using lithium cobalt oxide as the cathode of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery, it would be possible to achieve a high density of stored energy with an anode other than metallic lithium. This discovery led to the development of carbon-rich materials that allow for the use of stable and manageable negative electrodes in lithium-ion batteries.

Shortly after Goodenough’s breakthrough, Rachid Yazami began exploring graphite compounds in which lithium could be reversibly inserted between graphite layers. This provided an alternative to the lithium metal negative electrode. Yazami’s lithium-graphite is the most commonly used anode in commercial lithium-ion batteries today.

In 1985, Akira Yoshino produced a rechargeable lithium-ion battery prototype using a lithium cobalt oxide cathode and a carbon anode, eliminating metallic lithium. This design significantly improved the safety of the battery, while also providing practical energy output at a reasonable price. Yoshino’s work resulted in the first safety-tested, commercially acceptable lithium-ion battery.

Yoshio Nishi served as operating officer and senior manager of Sony Corp., where he sought to make the lithium-ion battery a household item. After overseeing the development of the quality controls and safety characteristics necessary for mass-producing the battery, Sony officially released the high-performance lithium-ion battery into the market under Nishi’s supervision. The economic impact of the lithium-ion battery is now estimated at approximately $10 billion.

John B. Goodenough began his career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Lincoln Laboratory in 1952 where he laid the groundwork for the first random-access memory (RAM) of the digital computer. After leaving MIT, he became professor and head of the Inorganic Chemistry Laboratory at the University of Oxford. During this time, Goodenough made the lithium-ion discovery. In 1986, he took the Virginia H. Cockrell Centennial Chair of Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin where he currently works.

Akira Yoshino conducted his research on rechargeable batteries after joining the Asahi Kasei Corp. in 1972, where he currently serves as a fellow and the general manager. Over the last 50 years, Yoshino has served in numerous positions and has worked in several laboratories at the Asahi Kasei. In addition to his current roles, he is also president of the Lithium Ion Battery Technology and Evaluation Center (LIBTEC).

Rachid Yazami began his career in France at the Grenoble Institute of Technology (INPG) and at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), where he later became a research director in 1998. While working at CNRS, Yazami also served as a visiting professor at the California Institute of Technology between 2000 and 2010. In 2010 he was appointed as a visiting professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, where he later became the Cheng Tsang Man Chair Professor in Energy at the School of Materials Science and Engineering. In 2011 Yazami founded a start-up company in Singapore, KVI, PTE LTD, dedicated to battery life and safety enhancement for mobile electronics, large energy storage, and electric vehicles applications. Yazami is also a founder of CFX battery Inc. (now Contour Energy Systems), a primary and rechargeable lithium and fluoride battery start-up company in Azusa, Calif.

Yoshio Nishi is retired senior vice president and chief technology officer of the Sony Corp. In addition to these roles, he also held the positions of executive vice president, corporate research fellow, and the president of materials laboratories chief technology office at Sony. Nishi joined Sony immediately after his graduation and was engaged in R&D on fuel cells, materials for electroacoustic transducers, and electrochemical cells with nonaqueous electrolyte.

The Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education

The Dartmouth Engineering Entrepreneurship Program (DEEP) at the university's Thayer School of Engineering is a multidisciplinary educational paradigm that integrates entrepreneurship and leadership training into all aspects of its curriculum. At the undergraduate level, students are immersed in the liberal arts as well as interdisciplinary project-based engineering teamwork activities. At the master’s level, the Master of Engineering Management (M.E.M.) program -- a partnership with Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business -- helps prepare students for technology leadership positions by allowing them to take management, finance, and marketing courses. The Ph.D. Innovation program, a special track within the engineering doctoral program, trains students to develop entrepreneurial skills, while enabling them to pursue independent research and develop commercialization methods for their discoveries.

John Collier is credited with transforming Dartmouth’s Introduction to Engineering course in the 1980s, expanding the scope of the class to focus on project-based learning and hands-on technical skills. Collier redesigned the course so that students are introduced to engineering as a member of a team working on an engineering design solution to a general problem in the commercial market. He builds students’ leadership skills through their identification of project milestones, team work, interaction with industry experts, and presentation in front of clients, peers, and leaders. Collier currently serves as the Myron Tribus Professor of Engineering Innovation at Dartmouth.

While serving as dean of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, Charles Hutchinson developed the M.E.M. program in 1988 “to develop managers who understand both the engineering and business aspects of technology.” The coursework for the program includes engineering, business management, and entrepreneurship classes. An entrepreneurial leader, Hutchinson co-founded the pharmaceutical company GlycoFi with Thayer colleague Tillman Gerngross in 2000 and sold it to Merck six years later.

Co-director and then director of M.E.M., Robert Graves expanded the program in 2003 to require students to undertake updated engineering courses and an internship grounded in technology-focused areas. Graves designed the assessment course and the project course to include a thorough analysis of prevalent and emerging technologies in fields of critical interest such as health, energy, the environment, and other complex systems, and then to recommend and justify actions for its further development. The purpose of this course is to teach students how to work as technological thinkers while taking into account market demands, product feasibility, and ethical considerations. Graves also introduced a new course in technology project management for students. Graves is the John H. Krehbiel Senior Professor for Emerging Technologies and an adjunct professor in the Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business.

Joseph Helble launched Dartmouth’s Ph.D. Innovation program in 2008 as the nation’s first doctoral-level program focused on both engineering innovation and entrepreneurship. In designing the curriculum, Helble placed a special emphasis on creating a hands-on approach to preparing students to build enterprises based on their technical innovations. Students in the program are asked to identify a new technology that they propose as a foundation for a new venture and develop an inclusive plan for implementing and executing the enterprise. The plan must take into account market issues, intellectual property issues, product commercialization, financial planning, raising capital, leadership, and administrative issues, including personnel, infrastructure, and competition. In addition to making sure students receive comprehensive training in technical entrepreneurship, Helble also included the opportunity for students to receive funding for their proposed ventures during the later stages of their studies. Helble currently serves as the dean and professor of engineering at Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering.

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The Draper Prize was established in 1988 at the request of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Inc., Cambridge, Mass., to honor the memory of "Doc" Draper, the "father of inertial navigation," and to increase public understanding of the contributions of engineering and technology. The prize is awarded annually.

The Gordon Prize was established in 2001 as a biennial prize recognizing new modalities and experiments in education that develop effective engineering leaders. Recognizing the potential to spur a revolution in engineering education, NAE announced in 2003 that the prize would be awarded annually.

Founded in 1964, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering is a private, independent, nonprofit institution that provides engineering leadership in service to the nation. Its mission is to advance the well-being of the nation by promoting a vibrant engineering profession and by marshalling the expertise and insights of eminent engineers to provide independent advice to the federal government on matters involving engineering and technology.