News / Science & Technology

Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Futurei
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Kane Farabaugh
July 21, 2014 1:30 AM
In 2012, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research brings together scientists and engineers from government, national laboratories, and industry to provide them with the tools, funding, and space to make the next technological breakthrough in energy storage.

In 2012, the Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research brings together scientists and engineers from government, national laboratories, and industry to provide them with the tools, funding, and space to make the next technological breakthrough in energy storage.

Smaller. Lighter. Longer Lasting. That's what consumers want in the batteries they use to power personal electronics.

At the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, or J-CESR, researchers hope to meet the demand.

This is the birthplace of the lithium ion battery technology, but J-CESR scientists and engineers have bigger - and smaller - goals in mind.

“Five times the energy density at one fifth the cost.” And all this is five years, accrdoing to deputy director Jeffrey Chamberlain.  Cell phones, he says, are the devices where consumers will first notice a change.

“So instead of charging it every day, they might be able to charge it every few days or every week.  Or instead of having certain power and capability, they might be able to get to a kind of power that might be unimagined,” says he.

Chamberlain says the ultimate goal is to change the worldwide automotive market.

“The bigger mission we are on is trying to store energy in a way that is cost-effective and safe so that we can compete directly with the internal combustion engine using electricity or electric transport,” says Chamberlain.

Argonne’s Energy Systems Division Director Don Hillebrand says more power for personal electronics is an easy sell - but consumers demand change when it comes to cars.

“Some consumers want an all-electric vehicle.  The big debate right now is how many of them are there?  That number changes based on how much gasoline costs.  Really at what point does gasoline get expensive enough that it drives more people into wanting all-electrics?” – asks Hillebrand.

Hillebrand says the sales figures this year - about ten thousand electric vehicles sold per month in the United States - is below industry expectations, but the battery the center is developing could change the picture.

“It’s showing steady growth as we go forward.  That number needs to be ten times bigger for us to really say that this program has been a success, and getting to that ten times is really tied to getting the battery to what we need it to be,” says Hillebrand.

But if that battery development is successful, and sales of electric powered vehicles take off, there will be increased demand on the existing power grid to recharge those batteries - a problem the scientists and researchers at J-CESR are also tackling by developing a large scale battery for the grid.


Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

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by: Donn from: Caldwell
July 21, 2014 11:05 PM
Put your batter in cars and you'll have 20X the number of EV cars sold. Just about all of us are willing to pay a little more upfront to untether ourselves from the oil monsters! May the day come speedily!

by: Alouisis from: LA
July 21, 2014 5:36 PM
The end game is not autos, it is home and commercial battery arrays refreshed via solar. This accomplishes the reduction of oil dependence, an aging inadequate electrical grid, and the cost of generating energy on an ongoing basis.

by: John Frey from: Kingsport TN
July 21, 2014 3:57 PM
I have to keep on saying this- the large number of vehicles plugged in at night (and to some extent during the day) will act as grid storage with existing technology. They will give and take from the grid based on programmed need and cost. We currently have way too much capacity across the nation at night, and idling power plants that can easily meet need more efficiently than at present. I drive two electrics, best cars ever. We don't need to directly compete on price, but in 3 years, electrics will have lower lifetime costs than gas cars.

by: Cranksy from: USA
July 21, 2014 10:59 AM
Aren't there resourceful persons and organizations who oppose this project because it is advantageous to them the way things are?

What would recharge the large scale batteries that aid the grid in recharging the other batteries?


by: Kenrm from: Cleveland
July 21, 2014 12:07 AM
Pretty bold statement to make about having a battery of that advancement in 5 years, when the product is not yet in hand. Or is that just PR to get more government funding?

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