SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University are part of a team led by Argonne National Laboratory that will receive up to $120 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to establish a new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub – the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). The Hub will combine the R&D firepower of five DOE national laboratories, five universities and four private firms in an effort aimed at achieving revolutionary advances in battery performance.

“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,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. “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.”

The JCESR will integrate efforts at several successful independent research programs, including those at SLAC and Stanford, into a larger, coordinated effort designed to push the limits on battery advances. Advancements 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. It will also be critical to transitioning the transportation sector to more flexible grid power.

SLAC is an institutional partner in the public-private partnership with Yi Cui, a materials scientist at SLAC and Stanford, co-leading the battery prototyping efforts and Zhi-Xun Shen, SLAC's chief scientist, serving on the JCESR's strategic advisory committee.

“This is a wonderful first step for us to move into this important area of research and establish a full-fledged battery research program,” said Shen, who has been a central figure in SLAC's wider expansion into energy sciences.

Over the past few years SLAC has been ramping up its next-generation energy research portfolio in response to a call from lab leaders. Shen led a recent SLAC-Stanford energy task force that recommended the lab focus on three broad areas of energy research: advanced photon-management materials and devices for converting solar energy to electricity, catalysts for converting solar energy to fuel and batteries for energy storage.

Much of this work is carried out at SIMES, the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Sciences, and the SUNCAT Center for Interface Science and Catalysis, two interdisciplinary centers that SLAC runs jointly with Stanford University. Both Shen and Cui are members of SIMES.

SLAC and Stanford's efforts on energy storage have already been heating up. In November the Stanford Energy and Environment Affiliates Program held a daylong symposium highlighting work on energy storage at Stanford and SLAC, with a number of local researchers from Silicon Valley startups and established companies participating. Recent work presented by SLAC showed how scientists use X-rays from the lab’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource to follow chemical changes occurring in batteries as they charge and discharge over multiple cycles. These 3-D, high-resolution studies of batteries at work provide unparalleled insight into the operation of battery materials, which can enable rapid progress in meeting DOE and commercial goals.

Cui, a principal investigator on the JCESR team, leads a group of 35 researchers at Stanford and SLAC who have already made important advances in battery technology research, including sturdier materials for electrodes and a way to make batteries transparent. He said his work for the JCESR will include developing new materials for battery electrodes and prototyping new battery technologies.

“This is a very exciting Hub, pulling some of the nation’s best scientists together to work on very important and very interesting scientific problems,” Cui said. “It will energize the SLAC and Stanford community to continue to expand our work on the energy storage problem.”

Selected through an open national competition with a rigorous merit review process that relied on outside expert reviewers, JCESR is the fourth Energy Innovation Hub established by the Energy Department since 2010. Other Hubs are devoted to modeling and simulation of nuclear reactors, achieving major improvements in the energy efficiency of buildings and developing fuels from sunlight. A fifth Hub focused on critical materials research was announced earlier this year and is still in the application process.

According to Argonne Director Eric Isaacs, “The JCESR batteries and energy storage hub gives us a new collaborative, inter-institutional R&D paradigm in which to develop the energy storage technologies that transform both the electricity grid and transportation, and so reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

To read more about JCESR, see the official announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy. .

This article was originally published in SLAC News.