Focus Areas

Toward Carbon-Free Transportation Technologies

ESDR researchers focus on resolving the critical roadblocks that prevent the move away from fossil fuel for transportation with high energy batteries, hydrogen fuel cells, and electrochemical and photo-electrochemical methods for fuel generation. ESDR researchers bring deep expertise in thermo-electric, laser technologies, electrochemistry, materials science, characterization, and theory to solve the challenges in these systems. In the area of batteries, the focus is on discovering new high-energy materials that can decrease the cost and increase the range of electric cars. In fuel cells, researchers are solving the durability challenges during real-world use. Finally, ESDR researchers focus on reduction of CO2 to liquid fuels, both using photons and electrons, with emphasis on materials and device design.

Grid Tools to Allow Renewables Penetration

The electric grid is evolving in a distributed fashion with more solar on rooftops and batteries in cars plugged into homes. Understanding the impact of these renewables, designing strategies to deal with the evolving grid, and developing technologies to ease the transition are all part of ESDR's strategy. Researchers focus on implementing demand response through the OpenADR Alliance and are implementing the standard all over the world. Researchers also focus on providing tools to system operators to take advantage of demand response to manage loads. In the area of microgrids, the focus is on designing optimal systems that can minimize cost or CO2 emissions and on the more efficient use of existing equipment. Finally, battery technology, both low cost container batteries, and flow devices, are being developed to allow management of the intermittency inherent to renewables.

ESDR researchers are also very interested in exploring the synergies and challenges at the intersection of the transportation infrastructure of the future and its influence on the grid. Tools are being developed to examine the vehicle-to-grid space in order to provide strategies for taking advantage of the opportunity electric vehicles present to the grid.

Discovery Tools to Enable the Future

The transition to the transportation infrastructure of the future, and the electric grid that takes advantage of renewables penetration, requires the development of novel tools that accelerate technology development and allow implementation of smart strategies. ESDR researchers develop tools that allow for this transition. For materials development, the Materials Project serves as a premier model of transitioning to a smart approach to discovery. Taking advantage of the user facilities at LBNL, in situ characterization using spectroscopic and microscopic techniques, high performance computing, and synthesis of novel materials with microscopic control are being pursued. A unique tool developed by ESDR researchers is the use of laser spectroscopy to understand materials. In the area of strategies for the grid, the OpenADR Alliance is a shining example of the impact of standards to influence technology. The Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM) is a unique tool that allows planning and scheduling of distributed resources in a microgrid setting, while V2G-Sim serves as a platform to help understand the impact and opportunity posed by electric vehicles when connected to the grid.

From Lab to Market

LBNL, and the Energy Storage and Distributed Resources Division, has a long tradition of collaborating with industry both in the field of batteries and that of fuel cells. This is often done informally in the context of the Advanced Battery Materials Research (BMR) Program where currently three companies are leading BMR projects (HydroQuébec, GM, and Daikin America.) In the Applied Battery Materials (ABR) Program, LBNL scientists have formally collaborated with three different companies (Envia Systems, Farasis Energy and 3M.) Ad hoc collaborations are also set up using a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). Similarly, the Fuel Cells Group has a long history of collaborating with industry both nationally (General Electric, 3M, Ion Power, DuPont, GM, UTRC) and internationally (Ballard, Freudenberg, Robert Bosch, Toyota, Nissan.) As the result of these efforts Berkeley Lab is in discussion with various interested parties to license specific pieces of technology.

As California is also the home of a rich and vibrant ecosystem of energy storage companies, the need to engage with these firms was recognized early on by LBNL. It was decided that an effective way to accomplish this was through a consortium partnership. Working with CalCEF Catalyst (a non-profit organization dedicated to the development and deployment of clean energy technology), LBNL co-founded CalCharge, which was officially opened by DOE Assistant Secretary Danielson on April 17, 2014. The CalCharge consortium is comprised of emerging and established companies, research institutions (currently LBNL and SLAC), as well as other key stake holders in the innovation lifecycle. Through CalCharge, members have access to programs in Technology Assessment and Acceleration, Professional Development, Pre-commercialization Support, and Ecosystem Facilitation. Members may also collaborate with Berkeley Lab scientists through a unique Master CRADA agreement. CalCharge currently has (as of September 2014) fourteen member companies and many more are at various stages in the membership pipeline. Three of these member companies currently have active collaborations (Task Orders) at Berkeley Lab.