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Argonne launches alt. energy hub

The new Joint Center for Energy Storage Research will develop batteries that are five times more powerful, five times cheaper, in five years.

Argonne National Laboratory was awarded $120 million by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to launch the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) “batteries and energy storage hub,” Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Governor Pat Quinn, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and University President Robert Zimmer announced in a joint press conference last Friday.

The new center in Lemont, a suburb 27 miles southwest of Chicago, will establish Chicago and Illinois as the new epicenter for advanced battery technology. JCESR will link energy storage research and production and manufacturing, streamlining the production of alternative energy, according to Argonne Director Eric Isaacs.

“We’re taking on very large-scale, well-coordinated, mission-driven programs here that will lead to breakthroughs in energy science and also at the same time train and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers,” Isaacs said.

In the press conference, Isaacs outlined what he calls the 5:5:5 plan for the program. “We’re going to develop batteries that are five times more powerful, five times cheaper, in five years. That’s a very aggressive and very ambitious goal,” he said.

If the JCESR is successful in its first five years, it will be renewed for another five years, according to U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

To accomplish its goals, Argonne will partner with four other research centers, four manufacturing companies, and four academic institutions, including the University of Chicago.

The JCSER has been strongly endorsed by Emanuel and Quinn, who both emphasized the positive impact it will have on the economic and job growth of Chicago and Illinois.

The establishment of the JCSER promises a growth in automobile manufacturing jobs and new start-up companies drawn to the economic prospects of the new energy storage technology, Emanuel said. “Chicago will be the center of [automobile and alternative energy research] and all the promise of jobs and economic opportunities that come from that.”

Quinn committed $35 million in state funding to build the Lemont campus.

According to Zimmer, Argonne plays a fundamental role in the research enterprise of the University of Chicago.

“The University of Chicago is known for producing world-changing ideas. The energy partnership being announced today is one of the many ways that we are working to ensure that these ideas are pushed out into the world, so that they can have a powerful impact.”