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ARPA-E to Fund $43 Million for Energy Storage R&D Projects

Lightning strike (Les Chatfield/Flickr)Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), in the U.S. Department of Energy, will support 19 new research and development projects to improve the management of energy storage technologies for vehicles and electrical power grids. The projects, totaling $43 million, will be funded out of the Energy Department’s Advanced Management and Protection of Energy Storage Devices (AMPED) program and small business R&D set-asides.

Some 12 of the projects totaling $30 million will come out of the AMPED funds. That program aims to develop advanced sensing and control technologies to improve safety and performance, and extend the lifetimes of power grid and vehicle batteries. ARPA-E notes that these projects are expected to find ways of enhancing the performance of today’s battery technologies, not to discover new kinds of energy storage.

The AMPED projects include a power management system to be developed at Utah State University in Logan that maximizes the performance of each cell in a battery pack, with the potential to reduce electric vehicle battery pack costs by at least 25 percent. Another project by the Palo Alto Research Center in California will develop fiber optic sensors that monitor and measure batteries during charge and discharge cycles while in use, to avoid battery degradation and failure.

Another seven projects will be funded from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which devotes a portion of the department’s R&D portfolio to small U.S.-based enterprises. The $13 million for these projects will support research into new battery chemistries and battery designs.

One of the SBIR projects, by ITN Energy Systems in Littleton, Colorado, will develop a new type of vanadium flow battery, itself a new type of battery chemistry, for grid-scale energy storage. The new system is expected to increase the efficiency and lower the cost of vanadium-flow batteries for storing energy from renewable, but intermittent, power sources such as wind and solar. Another project, by Sila Nanotechnologies in Atlanta, will develop an electric vehicle battery that doubles the capacity of current lithium-ion batteries, using low cost nanocomposite materials that could cut energy storage costs in half.

ARPA-E is the department’s advanced R&D agency, established in 2009 to support new technologies considered too risky for private-sector investment, but have the potential to translate science into new practical applications with industrial and commercial impact.

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Photo: Les Chatfield/Flickr

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