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USA: DOE grant goes to lithium-ion battery development

In a lithium-ion battery, the lithium is stored in metallic (uncharged) form inside the particles of a graphic electrode. During discharge the lithium comes to the electrode’s surface, where it is ionized, creating a current that travels to the cathode. At the cathode, typically a lithium-based alloy, the ions are neutralized and enter electrode particles as metallic lithium. The battery is recharged by forcing a current to flow in the opposite direction, moving the lithium back into the anode. Credit: MAPLE Lab/WUSTL

The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) announced Aug. 2 that a team of engineers at Washington University in St. Louis will receive $2 million to design a battery management system for lithium-ion batteries that will guarantee their longevity, safety and performance. This is a particularly challenging project because the electrochemical reactions inside the battery are not easily captured in mathematical form.

The project is one of 12 that won funding from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) under the new AMPED program that focuses on innovations in battery management and storage to advance electric vehicle technologies and to help improve the efficiency and reliability of the electrical grid.

“This latest round of ARPA-E projects seek to address the remaining challenges in energy storage technologies, which could revolutionize the way Americans store and use energy in electric vehicles, the grid and beyond, while also potentially improving the access to energy for the U.S. military at forward operating bases in remote areas,” says Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

“These cutting-edge projects could transform our energy infrastructure, dramatically reduce our reliance on imported oil and increase American energy security,” Chu says.

“This initiative is part of a broader effort to strengthen the university’s expertise in energy-related technologies,” says Pratim Biswas, PhD, chair of the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

“While this grant targets car batteries,” he says, “the technology is also directly applicable to intermittent sources of energy such as solar that produce energy that may need to be buffered rather than plugged directly into electrical grid.”

The department has also recently won a large grant in solar technology and plans to launch an effort called Solar Energy and Energy Storage, or SEES.

The AMPED award goes to the Modeling, Analysis and Process-control Laboratory for Electrochemical systems (MAPLE) in the Department of Energy, Environmental & Chemical Engineering, led by Venkat Subramanian, PhD, associate professor.

“I want to give credit to my doctoral students,” Subramanian says. “Without their efforts, we wouldn’t have been able to submit a proposal. The solicitation came and we had two weeks to respond after the team was formed, and then we got a review and we had to respond over the weekend.”

In addition to Subramanian, the team includes doctoral students Venkatasailanathan Ramadesigan, Paul Northrop, Sumitava De, Bharatkumar Suthar and Matthew Lawder.

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