US initiative secures $120 million to research next-gen storage technology

US initiative secures $120 million to research next-gen storage technology

US initiative secures $120 million to research next-gen storage technology Energy Storage Journal

Developing batteries five times more powerful, and significantly cheaper to make, is the focus of a public-private research initiative launched in the US.

To make electric transportation and electricity generation from renewables truly competitive in the longer term, much more is needed from storage technologies compared with today’s batteries. An initiative in the US is harnessing the research resource of five national laboratories, five universities and industrial companies to develop batteries that have the potential to outperform current technologies. In short, the aim is to develop batteries that are five times more powerful, five times cheaper, within five years.

The Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), launched in November 2012, is one of four energy innovation hubs launched by the Department of Energy (DoE) since 2010. Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), in Illinois, is leading the public-private partnership, which will be supported with an award of up to $120 million (€88 million) over five years. As several universities in the Illinois are partners on the programme, JCSER has earned speculation in local press reports that the state is laying the foundations of a ‘Silicon Valley of battery science’.

DoE national laboratories and DoE-funded university research programmes have been responsible for advances in battery technology. For instance, work at Argonne helped make the Chevy Volt battery possible. Pooling the research of the national labs and universities could push the US ahead in the global energy storage industry.
‘Advancing next generation battery and energy storage technologies for electric and hybrid cars and the electricity grid are critical to keeping America competitive in the global economy,’ Dr Linda Horton, director of the materials sciences and engineering division in the DOE’s Office of Science, told ESJ. ‘A goal of JCSER is to accelerate the development of energy storage solutions, improving grid storage to increase efficiency and to allow effective integration of intermittent renewable energy sources. At the same time, this hub will facilitate advances in battery technology that can move the transportation sector toward cleaner, more flexibly sourced, grid-based power.’

JCESR’s remit encompasses three R&D areas in electrochemical storage; multivalent intercalation, chemical transformation and non-aqueous redox flow. Multivalent intercalation focuses on working ions, such as magnesium or yttrium, which carry twice or triple the charge of lithium and have the potential to store two or three times as much energy. Chemical transformation is based on using the chemical reaction of the working ion to store many times the energy of today’s lithium-ion batteries. Non-aqueous redox flow is based on reversibly changing the charge state of ions held in solution in large storage tanks; the very high capacity of this approach is well-suited to the needs of the grid.
JCESR is not concerned with incremental improvements of existing technologies, whether commercial or lab-proven. The industrial partners chosen have the resources and market reach to swiftly commercialise new energy storage technologies that result from the initiative. By focusing on these areas next generation technologies have the potential of delivering five times the energy density at one-fifth of the cost needed to bring electric transportation and large-scale solar and wind generation to competitive levels. The scientific impact, while primarily aimed at batteries, could also influence technologies in other areas such as fuel cells.

Within the three R&D areas JCESR will tackle specific research challenges. In multivalent intercalation these are mobility in host structures, mobility across interfaces as well as stable and selective interfaces. In chemical transformation these are phase transformation and juxtaposition, functional electrolytes and stable and selective interfaces. In non-aqueous redox flow these are novel redox species, ionic mobility, interfacial transport and stable and selective membranes.
JCESR will use basic research techniques developed in the last decade to make new materials and characterise their performance at the atomic level for the three energy storage concepts. Virtual batteries will be computer-designed and analysed for projected performance and potential shortcomings. Cell design and prototyping will deliver at least two prototypes – one for grid and one for transportation – for scale-up and manufacturing.

The underlying principles governing electricity storage are common for both transportation and stationary applications, hence the exploration of both within the programme. However, as prototypes for transportation and the grid must meet very different operational standards, they will be designed and prototyped separately, explains the DoE.
Facilities and resources

JCESR has begun research in existing facilities on ANL’s and partner institutions’ campuses. Funding for JCESR includes equipment support for a wide range of instrumentation to complement existing capabilities at the partner institutions. The state of Illinois will build a $35 million building, the Energy Innovation Center, on the Argonne campus to house JCESR. It is expected to be ready in 2014-2015.

In addition to receiving up to $120 million over five years, other funding sources could come from partners, government and industry. JCESR’s commercial partners will bring value through their knowledge of R&D challenges to scale-up and manufacturing, which will be folded into the JCESR research plan. The partners’ investments in commercial facilities for R&D and manufacturing are worth upwards of $1 billion. JCESR will have access to the knowledge, information and manufacturing base its our commercial partners. Also, in projects within JCESR that include direct involvement by industry, costs will be shared by that partner.

There will be opportunities for other research partners, both commercial and non-commercial, to join. New partners will be added to address specific scientific or technological goals for which new expertise is needed. In addition to the commercial partners, the five national labs and five universities, JCESR has 35-plus affiliates including other universities, private research organisations and commercial companies.