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Department of Energy kicks off five-year, $120 million battery research program

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spectre battery 555
spectre battery 555

Work has begun at a new research hub coordinated by the US Department of Energy (DoE), with the aim of revolutionizing battery technology over the next five years. According to a Computerworld interview with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, the ultimate goal of the project is to produce batteries which are five times more powerful than current technology at a fifth of the overall cost, with work being focused on products for transportation and the national power grid.

Now known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), the organization was announced in February as the Batteries and Energy Storage Hub, alongside $120 million in funding — the DoE then solicited applications from universities, independent laboratories, and private companies keen to be involved. As a result, the Center is being directed by George Crabtree of the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, with five nearby universities, including Northwestern and the University of Chicago, also taking part.

The organization was announced in February

The DoE is keen to stress the similarities between JCESR and previous intensive research drives such as the Manhattan Project, though the two are hardly comparable in terms of funding — still, the hub's work could have national implications, improving the efficiency of renewable energy sources such as wind turbines and allowing them to adapt to varying demand. Perhaps more exciting, JCESR's work on large-scale storage could very well trickle down into the consumer market over the course of the next decade, though it may be some time before the technology starts appearing in the likes of smartphones and tablets.