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The U.S. Army Doubles Down On Battery Technology

The U.S. Army is expanding research efforts to solve the current challenges to battery technologies and drive advancements in battery science and energy storage that will become increasingly critical with the use of sophisticated electronics.   The U.S. Army has recently awarded a US$7.2 million contract to a battery consortium led by the University of Maryland as part of its latest research campaign on extreme battery technology.  

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory will work on the University of Maryland-led effort in partnership with Montana State University and other universities, national laboratories, and companies that are part of the Center for Research in Extreme Batteries. The cooperative agreement also includes research entities and companies in the battery and energy storage sector, such as Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, the National Institute of Standards & Technology, Graphenix Development Inc, Ion Storage Systems, the New York Battery & Energy Storage Consortium, Saft America, Stony Brook University and the University of Texas-Austin.

The research of the battery technology effort will focus on extreme charging, extreme safety, extreme voltages, extreme evaluations, and extreme transformational innovations to promote the development of new materials and novel battery designs such as solid-state lithium batteries. 

“Part of the work is to try to evaluate commercial batteries or new battery systems in a way that is more reflective of how the Army uses batteries,” said Dr. Jeffrey Read, an Army chemist and one of the team leaders for the laboratory’s Battery Science Branch. 

Batteries and storage solutions will become critical when the U.S. Army adds a wide range of new electronics gear and capabilities over the next five to ten years, Read added. 

Related: Why Libya’s Surge In Oil Exports Won’t Last

The Department of Defense is also challenging innovators and private firms as the DOD seeks solutions for resilient energy production, transmission, use, and storage. The DOD wants to use all energy sources for military use such as wind, solar, thermal, hydro, nuclear, and hydrogen while reducing dependence on fossil fuels. The DOD—one of the largest single consumers of energy globally—aspires to eliminate all fossil fuel dependency. Mobile and fixed energy storage is one of the topics in the DOD challenge that seeks solutions ranging from such that can be put to work immediately, those that need some development, and also moonshot ideas that may not be implemented until 2045. 

Research into battery chemistry and cost-efficient and effective energy storage will also be critical to the advancement of civil and consumer technologies that will be needed to support the growing share of renewable energy generation in the power mix and the electrification of transport. 

The U.S. Army collaboration effort with researchers and universities could potentially result in breakthroughs in the current limitations of battery chemistry and use for civil purposes. 

For years, scientists and researchers are looking to improve lithium-ion battery technology or develop new battery chemistry or materials that would enhance battery performance and contribute to the wider adoption of renewable energy, energy storage, and electric vehicles. 

For example, earlier this year, researchers from the Samsung Advanced Institute of Technology (SAIT) and the Samsung R&D Institute Japan (SRJ) created a prototype of a new type of solid-state battery with high energy density, half the size of a typical lithium-ion battery, that could enable an electric vehicle (EV) to travel up to 500 miles (800 kilometers) on a single charge. 

Others have been trying to make lithium-oxygen batteries a viable energy storage solution by overcoming some of the challenges to the commercial use of this type of batteries. 

Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers said in May they had developed a thin-film, highly conductive solid-state electrolyte made of a polymer and ceramic-based composite for lithium metal batteries.

All these efforts go to show that battery science and energy storage are becoming critical parts of novel energy solutions that could accelerate the energy transition away from petroleum dependence, both in the U.S. Army and in civil applications for EVs and energy storage. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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