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Department Of Energy Powers Up Battery Research At Argonne


An electric vehicle parking spot at Northfield Walgreens. (Image courtesy Carmen B. via Flickr.)

Just look under the hood of any Chevy Volt for evidence of Argonne National Laboratory’s prominence in the field of battery research. In 1976, The research facility became the Department of Energy’s first independent test lab investigating battery applications for transportation, spinning off numerous patents and leading development of the ubiquitous lithium-ion battery.

The DOE returned Friday with a $120 million award for Argonne, tasking scientists at the nation’s fifth energy innovation hub with a tall order: Make batteries that are five times more powerful and one fifth the price in just five years. The announcement, which brought U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu to Lemont, Ill., formally established the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). Up to 120 people will work at the hub, which will get off the ground in a few months.

Lithium-ion batteries — currently powering your laptop, cell phone and virtually every other electronic device that can be recharged — are a topic of intense research now, largely because of renewed interest in electric vehicles. Although much of JCESR’s research will focus on improving current technology, scientists will also investigate new materials that have the potential to supplant lithium-ion batteries.
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