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Illinois partners with DOE, Argonne to establish 'batteries and energy storage hub'

12/3/2012  8:00 am

Several faculty members from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are part of a multi-institutional team that has been selected by the Department of Energy (DOE) for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish a new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub. Jeffrey Moore, the Murchison-Mallory Professor in the Department of Chemistry and interim head, will serve as principal investigator of one the four major research thrusts of the hub. Argonne National Lab, the project lead, will work together with five universities and four private firms to advance next generation battery and energy storage technologies for electric and hybrid cars and the electricity grid. The goals of the project are to reduce reliance on foreign oil and to reduce energy costs for consumers in the U.S.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu made the announcement about the project on Nov. 30: “This is a partnership between world-leading scientists and world-leading companies, committed to ensuring that the advanced battery technologies the world needs will be invented and built right here in America. Based on the tremendous advances that have been made in the past few years, there are very good reasons to believe that advanced battery technologies can and will play an increasingly valuable role in strengthening America’s energy and economic security by reducing our oil dependence, upgrading our aging power grid, and allowing us to take greater advantage of intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.”

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis M. Wise said the innovative partnership is a natural fit. “We’re excited about the potential for new discoveries in energy storage that may emerge from this collaboration. These partnerships that cross over traditional institutional boundaries and combine the resources of universities, governments and the private sector are going to be the models for research that let us address the major, complex challenges facing our society.”

“This new Hub brings together, under a single organizational roof, the world’s leading scientists, engineers and manufacturers in energy storage and provides them with the tools, resources and market reach necessary to produce major breakthroughs,” said Dick Durbin, U.S. Senator of Illinois.  “The large-scale, innovative research and transformational new battery systems that will result from this venture will mean more effective, lower cost and longer life energy storage technologies with real world applications for anything that can use a rechargeable battery.  The project promises to have a significant economic impact across Illinois with the help of towns and businesses who have already agreed to partner on the commercialization of promising technology developed at the Hub.”

The new Hub will integrate efforts at several successful independent research programs into a larger, coordinated effort designed to push the limits on battery advances.  Advances in batteries and energy storage technology are essential for continued efforts to develop a fundamentally new energy economy with decisively reduced dependence on imported oil.  Improved storage will be vital to fully integrating intermittent renewable energy sources such as wind and solar into the electrical grid. 

The Hub will bring together some of the most advanced energy storage research programs in the U.S. today.  Other national labs partnering with Argonne include Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.  The university partners are Northwestern University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and University of Michigan. Urbana faculty on the project include Jeff Moore, Andrew Gewirth, Ralph Nuzzo, Jennifer Lewis and Paul Braun. Four industrial partners have also joined to help clear a path to the marketplace for the advances developed through the project, including Dow Chemical Company, Applied Materials Inc., Johnson Controls Inc., and Clean Energy Trust.