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Energy Department Seeking New Power Storage Technologies

Chevrolet Volt and battery replica (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

A Chevrolet Volt and replica of the t-shaped battery pack (Photo by John F. Martin for General Motors)

The U.S. Department of Energy is looking for new methods for storing electric power, for use in plug-in passenger cars and to improve the performance of the nation’s power grids. The $30 million research program is being offered by the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E).

The agency’s Advanced Management and Protection of Energy-storage Devices or AMPED program aims to find breakthrough technologies that can overcome the limitations of today’s batteries. ARPA-E says many battery systems are over-designed and operate well below their maximum energy and power capabilities to minimize the risks of premature or catastrophic failure. Through AMPED, the agency seeks to develop better sensing and control technologies that can improve the management of commercial battery systems.

The difficulty of managing individual storage devices is compounded when confronted with integrated systems linking multiple devices. ARPA-E notes that groups of cells in series and parallel configurations can have coupled and interacting states, and cells subjected to different environments experience different degradation, a problem magnified by inter-cell interactions.

AMPED’s desired solutions need to meet objectives of improved safety and reliability, enhanced performance, and better prognostics to reduce the uncertainty of battery life. Technologies should reflect advanced sensing, diagnostic and prognostic technologies, energy storage system designs, and control capabilities. ARPA-E says it will give preference to system-level solutions that meet more than one of these objectives.

Because of the need for new processes and methods, ARPA-E strongly encourages scientists and engineers interested in taking part in AMPED to form new project teams with participants from different organizations, scientific disciplines, and technology sectors. The agency says interdisciplinary collaboration across organizations can accelerate the achievement of the desired scientific and technological outcomes.

The deadline for letters of intent to bid on the project is 14 May 2012. Full proposals are due on 23 May 2012.

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