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Argonne National Laboratory


Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in Maryland and across the United States have led to groundbreaking discoveries and development of new technologies that help meet the nation’s needs for sustainable energy, economic prosperity, and security.

University of Maryland, Argonne conduct advanced battery research

Scientists seek new batteries that can hold more power and charge faster in military operations while also being safer and more resilient. (Image by Shutterstock/maradon 333.)

The technology of lithium-ion batteries continues to improve, enabling such advances as smaller laptops and longer-range electric cars. Yet, the batteries continue to face challenges in military field operations because they may weigh as much as 10 pounds, and soldiers have limited time for charging them. What’s more, traditional lithium-ion batteries can catch fire if damaged or overheated.

The University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) has joined with the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory in a $10 million effort funded by the Army Research Laboratory, to develop a more powerful, faster-charging battery that will also be safer and more resilient in extreme temperatures. The university’s involvement springs from the novel ceramic structures it developed for fuel cells in collaboration with Montana State University. Researchers will build a new battery substituting ceramic in place of the plastic membrane and liquid electrolyte currently in use. Because ceramic cannot catch fire, it will be safer and more durable and may afford faster charging time. If successful in military applications, such advances could ultimately benefit many battery-based consumer products, as well.

Participants include Stony Brook University, the University of Texas at Austin, the DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and several private companies

Argonne, Exelon partner to test and deploy smart charging devices, benefit Maryland grid operators

(Image by Shutterstock/Wellnhofer Designs.)

Blazing a path to broaden the appeal of electric vehicles (EVs), the  DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy has awarded $5 million in funding for a four-year project focused on smart charging programs for electric vehicle charging. Exelon Corporation leads the project along with Argonne and other partners. Scientists will test a set of smart charging programs, devices and approaches, quantifying the potential benefits to EV owners and Maryland grid operators.  

Our projects focus on transportation electrification and electric vehicle charging in a broad, multidisciplinary way,” said Yan (Joann) Zhou, principal analyst and group leader of Vehicle and Energy Technology & Mobility Analysis in Argonne’s Energy Systems and Infrastructure Analysis division. Researchers will use an Argonne-Exelon copyrighted software tool, Agent-based Transportation Analysis Model (ATEAM), to examine potential smart charger locations and study how smart charging management can aid both EV adoption and charging deployment. 

Since most charging stations currently lack networks that directly communicate between the vehicle and utility, researchers will install 400 Argonne-developed Smart Charge Adapters (a 2017 finalist for an R&D 100 Award) at locations to be determined by their infrastructure modeling. Researchers will also use vehicle telematics and an established network provider to offer smart charge management programs to thousands of customers across several customer classes. 

Maryland, Argonne scientists team up to study nanoparticles in polymers 

Nanoparticle-polymer composites are used in a broad array of potential industry applications, including aerospace, automaking, biomaterials, defense, and energy storage and conversion. (Shutterstock/Art Stock Creative.)

Polymers — large, chain-like molecules — are everywhere. Some occur naturally in living organisms; for example, proteins and the nucleic acids in DNA are polymers. Other polymers are synthetic: Think nylon, Teflon and epoxy. In recent years, scientists made the groundbreaking discovery that adding nanoparticles to a polymer created a lightweight yet strong material with applications for many industries. However, researchers have yet to fully understand the role nanoparticles play in polymers.  

Scientists at Argonne partnered with researchers from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg and UMD to study the motion of silica nanoparticles in a polymer melt. Using X-ray photon correlation spectroscopy at Argonne’s Advanced Photon Source (APS), the team dispersed the nanoparticles in polyethylene oxide and was able to follow the motion of the nanoparticles within the polymer melt. The findings promise to change current thinking about how nanoparticles move within and reinforce polymer composites.  

The APS is a DOE Office of Science User Facility. 

Stabilizing single-atom catalysts with shocking heat waves  

Single platinum atoms spread over a sea of carbon substrate. (Image by Zhennan Huang and Reza Shahbazian-Yassar/Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago.)

Catalysts are important; for example, the platinum in a catalytic converter speeds the chemical reaction that changes toxic carbon monoxide to less dangerous carbon dioxide. Single atoms make great catalysts, but they’re unstable and rarely stay unattached for long. How to stabilize them and keep them from clustering? To answer that question, Argonne collaborated with UMD, Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore), the University of Illinois at Chicago and the DOE’s Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Because the most useful catalytic reactions occur at high temperatures, the team targeted catalysts with shock waves at heats of up to 3,000 kelvins (about 4,900 degrees Fahrenheit). Repeatedly exposing catalysts to such shock waves breaks them into single atoms, enabling them to remain stable for unprecedented lengths of time.  

For this pivotal discovery, scientists used a platinum catalyst and a carbon substrate. As a catalyst, platinum accelerates many important reactions, such as powering fuel cells and converting natural gas to more useful forms. Computer simulations modeling how the system would behave closely matched the actual results obtained during tests at Johns Hopkins and X-ray absorption spectroscopy at Argonne’s APS.