WFU innovator building better batteries

Deacon Blog


The New York Times this week included a special section devoted to energy, and you could find a Demon Deacon in the spotlight, this time for his work to improve the batteries that power electric cars. He’s Jeffrey P. Chamberlain (’88), head of the Electrochemical Energy Storage group at the Argonne National Laboratory, a lab sponsored by the U.S. Energy Department near Chicago.

The article, “Building Better Batteries for Electric Cars,” on Thursday featured Chamberlain’s prediction that the batteries that use some form of lithium-ion chemistry will be around for at least a decade or two “with plenty of room for innovation.” Those batteries are found in the new Nissan Leaf or Chevy Volt cars. “In the near-term, reducing the cost of the battery — and with it, the price of the vehicle — will come mostly from better manufacturing techniques and building more batteries,” according to the Times. “Improving durability and range will largely be the domain of researchers and scientists.”

Count a WFU grad among them. The Times said at Argonne researchers are working with new mixes of chemicals and different structures to increase the cathode’s energy capacity. Argonne has begun to license patents. “The result, Mr. Chamberlain said, would be batteries ‘that squeeze more energy into a smaller package, are less expensive to make and last longer.'”

Chamberlain may well be on his way to removing obstacles for drivers who want a more affordable electric car. The battery is the costliest component.

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