Army's Center for Research in Extreme Batteries tap local experts

March 06, 2015

The Center for Research in Extreme Batteries will strengthen the bonds between partners who want to solve practical battery problems that U.S. ground forces face.

The center's inaugural Power and Energy innovation workshop was held near the end of last year to get local experts in batteries and materials talking, for an integrated, cross disciplinary look at challenges that may have solutions beneficial to all. The next meeting will be held this spring.

The inaugural workshop kicked off the Center for Research in Extreme Batteries as a regional hub in advancing battery chemistries with ARL as the lead, and University of Maryland as the co-lead of the newly forming center.

Dr. Kang Xu, explained to the crowd of more than 100 leading experts from the local universities, government labs and industry that the ground forces reliance on energy in places beyond traditional grid access has led ARL scientists on a search for advanced battery chemistries that are beyond the expertise of government laboratories alone.

An expert in his own right, and best known in the field for his two comprehensive reviews on electrolyte materials, published at Chemical Reviews in 2004 and 2014, respectively, Xu asked the on-looking members of government, university and industry organizations for their help.

"In order for the real advances in energy storage technology to happen, a lot needs to be understood at fundamental levels, and we will have to extend the current expertise. It's not enough to just have me or our other group members inside ARL. We will have to include a lot of other disciplines and form a team that is strongly associated by complementing expertises," Xu said.

The concept of the center started with Xu and Dr. Chunsheng Wang, associate professor in the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering within the Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland, using their complementary experience in electrolytes and electrodes, respectively, to build up to advances in rechargeable batteries over the course of years. They co-authored a number of publications in scientific journals of high-impact numbers, and were funded by Department of Energy.v

They knew if they could produce a rechargeable battery with higher energy output, it would not only be beneficial to Soldiers, it would be useful for keeping things like commercial mobile devices charged for a much longer duration. Wang has conducted considerable research designing various nano-structured materials as superior electrodes for beyond-Li-ion chemistries such as lithium/sulfur, sodium-ion, and magnesium batteries, an area that is highly complementary to Xu's research.

Since high-performance batteries must be fabricated with both superior electrodes and excellent electrolytes, Wang's partnership with Xu was mutually beneficial. The ARL's proximity to the University of Maryland, where Wang is part of the school's Department of Energy-funded Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC), has enabled the scientists to forge a unique and effective relationship over the past few years.

"The collaboration between UMD and ARL has led to several key advancements in battery research, including joint publications in high-impact journals, jointly-filed patent disclosures, and shared projects," Wang said. The two colleagues began identifying challenges and gaps as they performed a joint project in multiple-electron aqueous batteries.

If they wanted a thorough understanding at a fundamental level, they would need expertise in characterization and imaging and a manufacturer of batteries to package the materials that they will conceptualize.

"Only by expanding to include other disciplines could we make the technology we were developing useful," Xu said. Xu is looking forward to partnering with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Naval Research Laboratory and NASA Goddard at the Batteries Material Research Center as well as with the longtime government partner Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, commonly known as CERDEC and other university partners.

Funding has been approved for a state-of-the-art dry room that has been proposed to be the core facility for the center. State-of-the-art equipment, including an electrochemical in-situ AFM with confocal Raman capability, are also in procurement.

Historically, to get strong team interaction at the government laboratory, there is lengthy process for each in-person exchange of resources, but the center provides open access to critical facilities with a free exchange between government and university.


Last Update / Reviewed: March 6, 2015