By Steve Koppes
Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

The University of Chicago will contribute in many ways to the partnership that Argonne National Laboratory assembled to establish a new, $120 million batteries and energy storage hub for the U.S. Department of Energy, called the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research.

The University’s Institute for Molecular Engineering, Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC), and Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program all will provide support for the effort to rapidly develop and commercialize revolutionary, clean, electrochemical energy storage technologies for transportation and the nation’s electric grid.

The Institute for Molecular Engineering will hire two faculty members who specialize in developing energy storage technology. “People who create new materials for batteries are really at the forefront in new developments in molecular engineering,” said Matthew Tirrell, the Institute’s Pritzker Director.

“Nanoengineering materials offer the possibility of high energy density and stability over many cycles of charging and discharging,” Tirrell said. “But it is a complex job to get simultaneously the right electrical properties and mechanical properties.”

Tirrell noted that one of Argonne’s partners at the center is Yet-Ming Chiang, the Kyocera Professor of Ceramics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “He’s viewed as one of the foremost battery scientists in the world,” Tirrell said.

A different kind of collaboration will come from the Energy Policy Institute at Chicago (EPIC), an interdisciplinary research and training institute focused on the economic and social consequences of energy policies. It is a joint initiative of the Harris School of Public Policy and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

“EPIC will work with Argonne to understand economic and policy aspects of inserting advanced energy storage technologies into the future energy system,” said EPIC Director Robert Rosner, the William E. Wrather Distinguished Service Professor in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Six of Argonne’s members of the new center will receive management training through the UChicago’s Strategic Laboratory Leadership Program. More than 100 national laboratory professionals have received training through the program since it was established in 2007. The program draws upon expertise from Chicago Booth to develop future laboratory leaders and foster closer working relationships between Argonne and Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

Argonne, the nation’s first national laboratory, conducts research in virtually every scientific discipline. From Argonne’s inception, the University of Chicago has managed and operated the laboratory. UChicago Argonne LLC manages the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.

Originally published on November 30, 2012.