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Argonne National Laboratory


Argonne Impacts State by State

Argonne’s collaborations in Massachusetts 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.

Researchers from Massachusetts team up with Argonne to study solid-state batteries

An all-solid-state battery on an experimental stage used in the study. The battery is compressed in a vise and has a laser shining on it to align the X-ray beam. (Image by Josh Gallaway, Northeastern University, Boston.)

To improve the power, efficiency and safety of electric vehicles, researchers must further develop better battery technology. All-solid-state lithium batteries, which have a solid electrolyte instead of a liquid, can be longer lasting and safer than traditional lithium-ion batteries.

Researchers at Northeastern University in Boston and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory recently tested how the composition of cathodes affected electrochemical reactions in all-solid-state lithium batteries. Their results were published in the journal ACS Energy Letters.

The research team used the Advanced Photon Source, a DOE Office of Science user facility at Argonne, to characterize reactions in batteries that differed in cathode composition. They found that cathode composition had a huge impact on how electrochemical reactions take place. The reaction is highly non-uniform — and we don’t really see a situation where it is uniform,” Gallaway said.

Uncovering how reactions take place within batteries is an important step towards designing better batteries for electric vehicles, portable electronics and other applications, Gallaway said.

Argonne: Pivotal discovery shows more CO2 emissions from permafrost soils than previously thought

A recent study found that carbon dioxide emissions from decomposition in Alaska’s permafrost soil are occurring much more quickly than once thought, with consequences for global warming. (Image by Shutterstock/R. Vickers.)

Permafrost, the perennially frozen subsoil in Earth’s northernmost regions, covers about 15% of land from the Arctic Ocean coastline through much of Alaska, northern Canada and northern Eurasia. A multi-institution study led by Woodwell Climate Research Center in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and including Argonne discovered that with rising global temperatures, the decomposition of organic matter in permafrost soil during winter can be substantially greater than previously thought.

The new numbers show that permafrost region soils release much more CO2 over the entire year than plants use during the summer. Scientists also found that the CO2 released by permafrost soil during winter could increase 41% by 2100 if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase.

The study, which includes data gathered from more than 100 sites in Alaska by several institutions in addition to Argonne, was published in Nature Climate Change. The team’s findings highlight the need for more research on the permafrost region’s CO2 emissions, and demonstrate the significant impact these emissions could have on the greenhouse effect and global warming.

JCESR startup to deliver world’s first long-duration discharge battery

A low-cost, long-duration discharge battery that can back up wind and solar generation during consecutive overcast or calm days promises to reshape the future of the electric grid.  (Image by Shutterstock/Mr. Kosal.)

With the invention of a novel air-breathing aqueous sulfur battery, scientists at the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR) led by Argonne may have ushered in a new era in long-duration energy storage. JCESR spun out Somerville, Massachusetts–based Form Energy to commercialize its innovative concept, a flow battery based on inexpensive, Earth-abundant materials that will be the nation’s longest-running, lowest-cost electric grid battery. Founded in 2017, the startup is headed by JCESR scientists affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

The batteries will first be made and deployed in the United States; eventually, scientists say, the technology could be exported anywhere in the world. 

The objective was to solve the unmet need for backing up wind and solar generation on consecutive overcast or calm days and to do so with a commercially viable solution,” said Yet-Ming Chiang, co-founder of Form Energy and an MIT professor of materials science who holds more than 80 patents. 

We are thrilled that Form Energy commercialized JCESR’s innovations for long-duration discharge batteries so quickly. This is a model for how the lab-to-market transition should work,” said George Crabtree, JCESR director. 

JCESR is a DOE Energy Innovation Hub.

Argonne partners with MathWorks for EcoCAR Mobility Challenge 

Chevy Blazer: the ​laboratory of the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge. (Image courtesy of Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions.)

Natick, Massachusetts-based MathWorks has partnered with Argonne to provide free software for the EcoCAR Mobility Challenge, a nationwide collegiate automotive engineering competition. The DOE, General Motors and MathWorks are headline sponsors of the event, which provides real-world, hands-on experience designing and building next-generation mobility solutions. 

The competition launched in 2018; more than 1,000 students from 11 universities participate each year. Argonne manages the competition, offering technical and operations oversight, team evaluation and logistical support. MathWorks provides teams access to the full suite of MATLAB and Simulink products, simulation models, training, technical mentoring and operational support. 

The EcoCAR challenge: To integrate advanced propulsion systems, electrification, vehicle automation and connectivity to improve the energy efficiency of a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer, while also balancing such aspects as emissions, safety and consumer acceptability. Competitions like EcoCAR help shape engineering curriculum in higher education, providing students with real-world engineering problem-solving experience and equipping them for their future careers. Argonne has managed Advanced Vehicle Technology Competitions for the DOE for over 32 years. 

UMass Medical School studies tarantula muscles with the APS to learn about human heart

Both human and tarantula muscles contain myosin, which triggers muscle movement. Studying tarantula muscles at the APS can help scientists understand human muscle movement. (Image by Shutterstock/Pets in Frames.) 

Connected to a network of veins, arteries and capillaries spanning more than 60,000 miles, the heart is the human body’s most important muscle. Yet, even with heart disease ranking as the world’s number one cause of death, understanding the heart’s physiology remains elusive. To learn more about muscle function, researchers used the BioCAT beamline at the  Advanced Photon Source (APS), a DOE Office of Science user facility at Argonne to study how tarantula muscles contract and relax. Both human and spider muscles contain myosin, a family of motor proteins essential to movement, and studying the myosin in spider muscles may provide insights into the ways our own muscles move. 

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester and the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago conducted X-ray diffraction experiments to learn how tarantula muscles are activated. Tarantulas have well-ordered filaments in their muscles, which allows for strong X-ray diffraction patterns. The team demonstrated the presence of two interacting molecular motors in live muscle that produce the force in that muscle — structures that, other studies suggest, also exist in the human heart. The team’s findings may help advance the design of more -effective drugs for human heart conditions, such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, in which a thickened heart muscle can lead to cardiac arrest. 

The APS is a DOE Office of Science user facility.