$120 million to support next-generation battery research

UChicago a partner on Argonne-led center to improve energy storage

The U.S. Department of Energy announced its decision Sept. 18 to renew the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which is led by Argonne National Laboratory and focused on advancing battery science and technology. The department plans to fund the center for a total of $120 million over the five-year renewal period. The University of Chicago is one of the partners in the center, known as JCESR.

“Advances in energy storage will drive U.S. prosperity and security,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. ​“By enabling partners across the national labs, academia and industry to forge collaborations and leverage one-of-a-kind scientific tools, JCESR will continue taking on profound scientific and technological challenges and fueling the innovation that will secure our energy future.”

Established in late 2012, JCESR is a partnership made up of national laboratories, universities and an industrial firm. Its mission is to create next-generation energy storage technologies that will transform transportation and the electric grid in the same way lithium-ion batteries transformed personal electronics.

“JCESR’s first five years have yielded important science breakthroughs, helped launch three startups—Blue Current, Sepion and Form Energy—and produced more than 380 published scientific papers,” said JCESR Director George Crabtree. ​“The knowledge we’ve gained has introduced new approaches to battery R&D and will guide our research in transformative materials for next generation batteries for many years in the future.”

In addition, using computational methods, JCESR researchers screened over 24,000 potential electrolyte and electrode compounds to help accelerate the search for new battery architectures, data that was made publicly available to the broader battery research community.

The announcement was made by Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar at the InnovationXLab Energy Storage Summit held at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

In the next five years, JCESR’s vision is to create disruptive new materials deliberately constructed from the bottom up, where each atom or molecule has a prescribed role in producing targeted overall materials behavior.

Future JCESR research will be aimed at energy storage technology for a host of emerging applications, including resilient future electric grids, distributed energy management for more reliable and efficient energy delivery under all conditions, fast-charging electric vehicles and even regional electric flight. While energy storage remains the key for all of these applications, no single battery type is capable of filling all the widely varying requirements.

What is needed, according to Crabtree, is a range of designer batteries, each tailored to the requirements of its host application. At the same time, each of these designer batteries must perform multiple, often competing tasks such as frequent cycling and long life, high energy density and slow self-discharge, or fast charging with little or no safety risk. The mission of the renewed JCESR is to create the science to, in the words of Crabtree, ​“lay the foundation for a diversity of next-generation batteries for a diversity of uses.”

—Adapted from the release by Argonne National Laboratory