The US Deptartment of Energy has big plans. They want batteries that are five times more powerful than what we’ve got today, and they want them to be five times cheaper. All that in just five years. It’s a tall order, but they’ve got a plan: recreate the Manhattan Project.
It goes a little something like this. First, the DOE will create the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, and then throw $US120 million at them over half a decade. Then they’ll round up the best and brightest at six national labs, five universities, and four private firms. And lastly, we’ll (hopefully) get a Manhattan Project-esque leap forward in battery tech.
US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu put it this way in a statement streamed live from Argonne National Laboratory where the project will be centered:
When you had to deliver the goods very, very quickly, you needed to put the best scientists next to the best engineers across disciplines to get very focused. …[It’s] very, very important for American industrial competitiveness that research be intimately linked with manufacturing in a way that will propel the United States forward. This is what the whole Hub concept is about.
The hope is to have new, more powerful batteries that are also cheap enough to gain widespread adoption by the end of the five years, batteries that could be used in anything from phones to cars to storage for solar and wind power. It’s worth nothing that this project is actually getting less than one per cent of the $US2 billion (roughly $US26 billion in today’s money) that the Manhattan Project wound up costing. But the Manhattan Project had a modest start too. Let’s just hope we get some killer batteries out of this… and soon.