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Energy Storage and Electrification

Exploring every aspect of energy storage, from discovering and scaling up new materials to battery recycling.

For more than fifty years, Argonne has produced pivotal scientific discoveries in energy storage, including the 1990s invention of a revolutionary cathode material from a nickel-manganese-cobalt (NMC) mix that significantly advanced the science of energy storage. The NMC cathode has been licensed to several major electric vehicle manufacturers including General Motors, BASF, TODA America and LG Chem, and is in worldwide use, including in the Chevy Volt and Chevy Bolt.

Argonne’s demonstrated achievement in meeting a spectrum of energy storage challenges includes a portfolio of more than 250 patented advanced cathode, anode, electrolyte, and additive components for lithium-ion, lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, sodium-ion and flow batteries. One arm of the laboratory’s energy storage work, the Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science, leverages multidisciplinary teams, world-class facilities and powerful scientific tools to help public- and private-sector partners turn scientific discovery into technology solutions.

Today, Argonne’s energy storage R&D portfolio spans the entire value chain, from materials discovery and characterization, through exploration of new battery chemistries, scale-up and testing, to recycling and extraction of critical materials.

Our researchers have increased the energy density and lowered the cost of next-generation battery materials for transportation and the grid in collaboration with our partners in the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Joint Center for Energy Storage Research. Together, we continue to pioneer new approaches to designing materials using high-performance computing and artificial intelligence, including the discovery of new functionalized organic molecules as platforms for organic redox flow batteries.

In the area of materials scale-up and testing, Argonne is the home to the Materials Engineering Research Facility, where researchers develop economical, scalable processes for the manufacture of cathode, anode, electrolyte, separator, and additive materials using a variety of innovative manufacturing processes integrated with in situ characterization, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence. We are also a member of the DOE-funded Roll-to-Roll Collaboration, advancing simplified roll-to-roll manufacturing and processing technologies for clean energy applications.

Argonne’s work on recycling and extraction of critical materials helps build broad strategies for securing a sustainable, low-carbon supply chain for lithium-based batteries. We lead DOE’s ReCell Center for advanced battery recycling. Our researchers develop and use state-of-the-art lifecycle analysis and techno-economic modeling tools to quantify greenhouse gas emissions reductions and cost benefits. Argonne also conducts end-to-end dynamic supply chain analysis for battery materials to identify vulnerabilities and develop strategies to mitigate the effects of market disruptions.

Argonne also leads the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) with DOE’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. ElectroCat targets the development of catalysts free of expensive platinum-group metals for proton-exchange membrane fuel cell cathodes and for alkaline and proton exchange membrane electrolyzer anodes.

Beyond the development of batteries and fuel cells, our R&D accelerates vehicle electrification technologies, analyzes their impact on greenhouse gas emissions, and advances pumped storage hydropower as an alternative to battery storage.

Argonne teams also study hydrogen as a potential future replacement for fossil fuels in transportation and industry, evaluate the potential impacts of nuclear reactors to generate carbon-free electricity for battery-powered electric vehicles, and have designed a microreactor tailored for charging of electric trucks at rest stops. Through our Center for Transportation Research and the Smart Energy Plaza, we are also advancing technologies for fast-charging and integration of electric vehicle charging with the grid.