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Research Highlights

Conductive Polymer Binder Awarded $240,000 UC Discovery Grant

A technology with the potential to increase the lithium-ion storage capacity of advanced batteries by eight times has been awarded a $240,000 grant from the University of California's Discovery Proof-of-Concept Grant program to accelerate its entrance into the marketplace. This project is led by Gao Liu (Principal Investigator) and Vince Battaglia (co-PI) in the Environmental Energy Technologies Division.

Gao Liu

Developed by Gao Liu, the technology is a conductive polymer binder that significantly improves the performance of electrodes in silicon composite electrodes. Silicon is a high energy-capacity material for negative electrodes that also has a long life cycle in batteries. Lithium ion batteries with silicon electrodes could have up to 25 percent higher energy storage capacity than current batteries, and a longer product lifetime through many cycles of charging and discharging.

Given the equivalent vehicle weight, this means that an electric vehicle could travel 25 percent farther on one charge. The technology could lead to EVs with a 250-mile per charge range.

The Promise of Silicon as an Electrode

"Silicon is a very promising material as a negative electrode [anode] for batteries," says Liu." It has ten times the capacity of graphite. The problem is that silicon is not stable. Its volume increases and decreases as electric charge travels to and from the electrode."

With existing binders, the pathway of the electric current will breach as the silicon expands, preventing the charges from moving—like breaking an electrical circuit.

"Our conductive polymer binder is very effective in lithium-ion batteries," says Liu."As it expands and contracts, it holds the silicon particles together, maintaining the conductive path."

"The conductive polymer binder," adds Liu, " cannot only be used with our silicon electrode, but with other battery chemistries and technologies as well. Many other battery-related applications are possible with this binder."

The research work that led to the technology has been funded by the Battery for Advanced Transportation Technologies program (BATT) of the Office of Vehicle Technologies, U.S. Department of Energy. The BATT program continues to fund the basic research.

The UC Discovery Fund is designed for technologies that have already demonstrated successful results in the research environment and are poised for commercialization but are in need of a specific, targeted demonstration, test result, or prototype.

Technology Transfer Department Helps Identify Marketplace Barriers

The Technology Transfer Department's Shanshan Li worked closely with Liu to clarify the potential market applications and barriers to commercialization, as well as to develop tangible development milestones that will most likely attract commercial interest to license the technology.

"The technology has generated high-profile interest from battery manufacturers, suppliers, and investors," says Liu."But we identified two primary barriers to commercialization: providing a large quantity of samples for testing, and optimizing the performance of the electrode in battery systems. The UC Discovery Proof-of-Concept Grant serves an important role in making the lab-to-market transition of this technology possible."

Unlike the other UC Discovery grants, the Proof-of-Concept program does not require matching industry funds. However, for Berkeley Lab researchers, applying for the grant would have been impractical because the fund only covers the direct cost of research. In collaboration with Berkeley Lab leadership, The Technology Transfer Department found a way to use the licensing royalty funds to cover the indirect cost, making it possible for Berkeley Lab researchers like Liu to apply.

Read the UC Discovery Grant press release.

For more information on the technologies, "conductive binder for lithium ion battery electrode" and "silicon composite electrode for advanced lithium ion batteries," see the Berkeley Lab Technology Transfer website.

Read a story about Proof-of-Concept grants here.

EETD Policy Brief Reviews the Value of Building Labels, Certifications, and Ratings

A new policy brief on the value of energy performance and green attributes in buildings, authored by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Elizabeth Stuart, is available.

Elizabeth Stuart

Labels, certifications, and rating systems for energy efficiency performance and "green" attributes of buildings have been available in the U.S. for over 10 years, and used extensively in the European Union and Australia for longer. Such certifications and ratings can make energy efficiency more visible, and could help spur demand for energy efficiency if these designations are shown to have a positive impact on sales or rental prices. This policy brief discusses the findings and methodologies from recent studies on this topic and suggests recommendations for future research. Although there have been just a handful of studies within the last 10 years that have investigated these effects, a few key findings have emerged.

Download "The Value of Energy Performance and Green Attributes in Buildings: A Review of Existing Literature and Recommendations for Future Research" [PDF].

Berkeley Lab Helps NASA Bring Efficient Technologies to Earth

NASA logo

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is collaborating with NASA's Ames Research Center to develop what may be the "greenest," highest-performing building in the federal government. The building, dubbed "Sustainability Base," will feature NASA-developed control and Integrated Systems Health Management (ISHM) technologies in a "closed-loop," sustainable building that uses NASA energy- and water-conserving technologies and draws on regional resources, such as natural lighting and the cool night air.

To help integrate NASA's "smart system" technologies, the Building Technologies Department at Berkeley Lab developed a Building Information Model (BIM) to serve as the repository for the building's systems information during its life cycle. In addition, Berkeley Lab developed an energy-performance simulation model to optimize the building's energy operations, using data from the BIM.

These tools will help NASA Ames monitor the building's performance for maximum efficiency and make suggestions for potential performance improvements. In addition, Berkeley Lab will provide advice regarding the new building's overall performance assessment. Data collected from the building will also provide information that will lead to better calibration and validation of the EnergyPlus simulation model and support the construction of future energy-efficient office buildings.

"It's a win-win situation for everyone when federal agencies work together sharing technologies and developing better business practices," said Steve Selkowitz, head of Berkeley Lab's Building Technologies Department.

For more information about Sustainability Base, please visit the NASA Sustainability Base website.

For more information about LBNL's Building Science program visit the Environmental Energy Technologies Division website.

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