By Kane Farabaugh

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 in five years, according 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…

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Areas of Focus: Transportation
Mobility is central to economic activity. Yet, a lack of fuel diversity and continued demand growth have made the transportation industry a major contributor to global pollution and carbon emissions....