U.S. DoE launches effort to supercharge battery tech investment

On Friday, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Stephen Chu announced the creation of a research center focusing on battery and energy storage technology. The ambitious project will attempt to deliver technologies that are five times as powerful as and five times cheaper than today's technologies.

Mr. Chu, or rather his successor, will be looking to achieve these results by 2017.

With $120 million in initial investment, the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) will be headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. All of money won't stay in Illinois: the investment will spread across six national labs, five universities and four private firms. The project is directly modeled after one of the most prominent and consequential examples of public-private investment of our time, Bell Laboratories.

The list of institutions set to receive funding reveals the goals of JCESR. The public universities and labs sit either in the automotive Mid West or the green-energized West Coast. Battery technologies that help electric cars go further and aid combustion engines in their quest for fuel efficiency will be one focus. The second will be the storage of energy generated by solar and wind sources. Current technology does not allow for the effective storage of this type of energy. Chu hopes to enable the creation of a single-home, "blackout immune" solar power solution. This would only be possible if storage technology improves, allowing a small solar grid to hang on to generated electricity in cases of disconnection from the traditional electrical grid. The full list of labs, universities and private firms set to receive funding is listed below.

Labs: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Universities: Northwestern University, University of Illinois-Chicago, University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign, University of Chicago and University of Michigan

Private Firms: Johnson Controls, Dow Chemical Company, Applied Materials and Clean Energy Trust

Computer World, via Department of Energy

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