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Cut Foreign Oil Dependence? Argonne Gets Grant That Could Help

Argonne National Laboratory received a $120 million federal grant to create revolutionary battery technology that could help promote American energy independence.

The Argonne National Laboratory received a $120 million federal grant that could help slash dependence on foreign oil, U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-Western Springs) announced Thursday.

Argonne, a non-profit research lab operated by the University of Chicago for the Department of Energy, will devote the grant to developing revolutionary battery technology for transportation and the electric grid, according to a news release from Lipinski's office. 

The federal funding will be delivered over five years and "has the potential of creating a revolution in battery technology that slashes dependence on foreign oil and makes our region the worldwide leader in battery manufacturing," the news release stated.

"This award sets up Argonne National Laboratory to be the world leader in an emerging field that will promote American energy independence, make green energy more available and affordable and grow manufacturing in the region," said Lipinski, a member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

The center’s primary objective is to develop more effective and cheaper energy storage solutions and batteries, according to the release. The research is anticipated to reduce the cost of electric vehicles, making them more competitive with cars that run on gasoline, while also opening up new possibilities for wind and solar power storage.

"The worldwide battery market is roughly $95 billion and has the potential for exponential growth," Lipinski said. "The communities around Argonne National Laboratory are now poised to be central to this huge market." 

Gov. Pat Quinn said during a press conference at Argonne Friday that the center would turn Illinois into the "battery capital of the United States of America."

Energy storage is a $42 billion industry that is growing at a rate of 8 percent a year, he said. Because of that growth, bringing the hub of the industry to Illinois will also bring jobs to the state.

"We want to keep our scientists, our inventors and our innovators right here in the land of Lincoln," he said.

Lauren Williamson contributed to this report.

Edward Andrysiak November 30, 2012 at 07:50 PM
I recall reading that the rare earths that are required for high life rechrageable batteries is only found in China. Does this mean we go from being dependant on one foreign country to another. Where is the gain?
Don Damon December 01, 2012 at 02:51 PM
The good news is rare earth metals are not all that rare ... they're found pretty much everywhere. The rare part was a misnomer at the time they were discovered. They seemed rare at the time because they are always found bound to some other mineral. So, China isn't the only place they are found. China is just about the only place that harvests them. A few years ago they closed the last US mine (in California). Not because they ran out ... but ... because they couldn't compete on price with China. Two things could happen with more research. Growing demand could make it reasonable to reopen closed mines. Or, research could drastically reduce the amount of rare earth metals required. An example? Ford's research has resulted in them switching from nickle-metal-hydride to lithium-ion. Their Li-ion batteries (in the new C-Max) have 30% less rare earth metals than the batteries in the Toyota Prius. Our real problem may be exploiting breakthroughs. The government investing research is one thing. It seems when they, then, invest in production companies it results in epic failure.
Bob R December 01, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Because of market demand, the US is on it's way to mining our own. Supply and demand. Here is an article from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/ciocentral/2012/06/08/rare-earth-minerals-an-end-to-chinas-monopoly-is-in-sight/

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