It Takes A Village:
Building Better Batteries

Argonne National Labs, JCESR, Clean Energy Trust, the Polsky Innovation Center and many other institutions have been working together to advance primary research on energy storage. Much progress has been made - and many lessons have been learned.

Last week, Varun Sivaram, the Douglas Dillon Fellow and Acting Director of the Program on Energy Security and Climate Change at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a great piece about his visit to Argonne National Lab.

In June, Dr. Sivaram and our own Ben Gaddy wrote about the limitations of the VC model for cleantech. His takeaways illustrate many of the large challenges facing the development of new technologies.

He broke down 4 major observations on Argonne’s innovative primary research on energy storage.

  1. Lithium-sulfur batteries are the best bet to succeed lithium-ion
  2. R&D is needed not only to invent new materials, but also to scale up manufacturing processes
  3. International R&D cooperation is about much more than technology development
  4. National laboratories and entrepreneurs could be natural partners

Lithium Sulfur batteries are probably the future of battery technology, however, these batteries also are a perfect example of the science challenges that our entrepreneurs are constantly facing.

Solving the problems facing Li-S batteries is taking years of coordinated effort with very uncertain returns. As Dr. Sivaram mentions, the researchers at the Joint Center for Battery Storage Research (JCESR) were working towards Lithium-Air batteries for a while before switching to Li-S chemistry. These studies are extremely difficult to predict while remaining so important. To learn more about the earlier developments in JCESR’s battery research, see our earlier post linked below.

Better Batteries are on Their Way

 

International cooperation is also key for this kind of innovation. Last month, we hosted a delegation of energy and environment professionals from China where we discussed challenges that existed in both countries. Those included the technological difficulties that labs like Argonne are working to address along with the financial challenges that accompany funding such technology-heavy projects. To learn more about our conversation, please read our earlier post here.

Bringing the World Together On Clean Energy

Developing new technologies requires deep partnerships and many people working on the different challenges. Connecting entrepreneurs with national labs like Argonne is particularly in the spirit of Clean Energy Trust’s mission. Without entrepreneurs to take these technologies into the market, Li-S batteries will just sit on the JCESR shelves. Also part of the necessary partnerships, are large corporations looking to bring in innovation. Exelon and Argonne recently announced their partnership to provide avenues for new technologies into people’s homes.

 

By Alex Foucault | October 20, 2016