University of Texas Scientist Leads Research on Electric Car Battery Technology

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The White House has just announced that, in an effort to combat negative changes in the climate, the Obama administration is looking to expand research into electric car manufacturing right after the first ever Sustainable Transportation Summit held by the Department of Energy.

The DOE selected the Battery500 consortium to lead the research on electric, battery-operated, vehicles, with a $500 million five-year grant.

The consortium is led by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), which is managed by the DOE’s Office of Science.

At its helm is the lead scientist, Arumugam Manthiram, the director of Texas Materials Institute at the University of Texas in Austin, Cockrell Chair in Engineering, and Director of the Materials Science and Engineering Program.

The group is composed of scientists from multiple fields and industries, with the goal of producing more affordable and smaller batteries that can be used by electric car manufacturers.

The DOE grant aims to help the consortium improve the state of the batteries used in electric cars.

If this mission succeeds, such cars will become more common and more affordable. They will also diminish the country’s carbon footprint.

Aside from Manthiram, John Goodenough, a professor from the Mechanical Engineering program of the University of Texas at Austin, will help oversee the study, and will contribute his knowledge on electrode materials to increase energy density.

Goodenough is known widely as the inventor of the lithium-ion battery cathode materials.

Manthiram said that the Battery500 is an exciting team made up of experts and scientists all working with battery power.

He said that many of his colleagues are excited to be at the threshold of a breakthrough in creating new lithium batteries.

The consortium’s main goal has always been to develop more effective batteries that will trump the current battery types in electric cars.

The scientists envision lithium batteries that are thrice as powerful, but less expensive and are smaller and lighter.

Electric vehicles need to be lighter in weight to be driven farther on the same battery charge, so it’s important to develop high specific energy batteries.

While PNNL takes the lead, and University of Texas scientists oversee the research, there are other partners involved like the Brookhaven and Idaho national laboratories, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University, University of California, San Diego, University of Washington, and Binghamton University, New York.

On the advisory board member are IBM and Tesla Motors, Inc.

Even though the group is already composed of specialists, they recognize that such a huge undertaking can benefit from outside knowledge and ideas.

So, they have set aside 20% of the budget for the “seedling projects”, which are proposals and suggestions from other battery research communities not chosen by the DOE grant.

The consortium also believes that developing better lithium batteries can lead to the discovery of more effective stationary grid energy storage.

The researchers are also planning to make their batteries easy for manufactures to use and install in their electric cars so that the production and testing of the battery and vehicles will be quick, easy, and safe.

In a few years, it is not difficult to imagine that electric cars will become more affordable and more useful in day-to-day living.

Rob Clark
 

SchoolCampus.org admin staff managing editor

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