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NIST Technology Program Announces Up To $71M in Funding for 20 Research Projects; New Silicon Nanowire Electrode Project and A123Systems Project on Second-Generation Electrodes and Manufacturing

The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced up to $71 million funding for 20 new research projects under its Technology Innovation Program (TIP). Selected projects range from unmanned, hovering aircraft for inspecting bridges to a high-speed sorting system for recycling aerospace metals to nanomaterials for advanced batteries, including two projects specifically developing advanced electrode materials for Li-ion batteries. The cost-sharing awards represent up to $146 million in new research over the next two to five years.

The two Li-ion electrode projects selected were Silicon Nanowire Production for Advanced Lithium-Ion Batteries by Amprius, Inc. in Menlo Park, California; and High Volume Production of Nanocomposite Electrode Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries by A123Systems, Inc. The A123Systems project is pursuing a second-generation nanomaterial that would replace some or all of the iron in A123 cells with manganese, increasing the battery’s energy density and therefore reducing cost per watt-hour.

The 20 projects were selected from a TIP competition announced on 26 March 2009, seeking projects addressing two broad areas of national interest: the practical application of advanced materials including nanomaterials, advanced alloys and composites in manufacturing; and the monitoring or retrofit of major public infrastructure systems, including water systems, dams and levees, and bridges, roads and highways.

The goals for advancing new nanomaterials were detailed in a white paper, “Accelerating the Incorporation of Materials Advances into Manufacturing Processes”. The goals for the civil infrastructure technology were detailed in a white paper, “Advanced Sensing Technologies and Advanced Repair Materials for the Infrastructure: Water Systems, Dams, Levees, Bridges, Roads, and Highways”.

Silicon Nanowire Production for Advanced Lithium-Ion Batteries. The 2-year project will receive a TIP contribution of $3 million; total estimated project cost is $6 million.

Amprius, Inc., is working to develop a unique, high-throughput, continuous manufacturing process for producing a novel, nanostructured silicon-based anode material for lithium batteries. Higher energy density batteries would have a major impact on the development of electric vehicles by extending driving range and lowering costs.

Silicon offers more than 10 times the theoretical energy storage capacity of carbon, today’s state of the art anode material, suggesting that batteries built with silicon-based anodes could offer significant increases in energy density, corresponding to better driving range and run-time in consumer electronics.

Conventional approaches to utilize silicon in batteries have been unsuccessful. Lithium ion insertion causes silicon to swell up to 400% when charged. This swelling causes bulk silicon structures to fracture, diminishing battery life after just a few cycles. Structured as nanowires, however, Silicon is able to swell without breaking.

Amprius has demonstrated anodes made of silicon nanowires that are tolerant of strains and can expand and contract without breaking for hundreds of cycles. A practical battery with a silicon nanowire anode could increase the energy density of today’s lithium batteries by 40%, even at realistic levels of material utilization.

Amprius currently makes silicon nanowires in a small-scale batch process using chemical vapor deposition (CVD), a process borrowed from the semiconductor industry. Mass consumer applications would require a far more efficient and low-cost manufacturing technique. The company hopes for a 1000-fold scale up of manufacturing capability, and the current project will explore two potential paths towards a large-scale process to produce silicon nanowire anodes “by the mile.”

After initial feasibility studies, the most promising approach will be developed. If successful, the process will represent the first continuous roll-to-roll process to deposit three-dimensional silicon-based nanostructures. In addition to the manufacture of advanced batteries, this continuous throughput technology would very likely benefit other industries including solar photovoltaic, energy storage and solid-state lighting industries.

High Volume Production Of Nanocomposite Electrode Materials For Lithium-Ion Batteries. This 3-year, $6-million project is requesting $2.864 million in TIP funds.

A123Systems, Inc. is developing a new nanocomposite material for lithium-ion battery electrodes together with improved manufacturing process technologies to enable both significantly improved battery performance and lower manufacturing costs.

A123Systems has an existing iron-phosphate nanocomposite electrode material that has enjoyed commercial success and is commonly used in batteries for cordless power tools, among other applications. The current project pursues a novel second-generation nanomaterial that would replace some or all of the iron with manganese, increasing the battery’s energy density and therefore reducing cost per watt-hour.

This project also will develop a number of improvements to the manufacturing process used to make the nanoparticles which should result in a threefold increase in manufacturing throughput. Since capital equipment and facilities are primary factors in the cost of electrode materials, increasing throughput offers the best leverage for cost reduction.

The ultimate goal of the project is to scale up from 10 grams per lab batch to more than 10 kilograms per day production in a quasi-continuous pilot demonstration.

Other projects selected for TIP funding are:

TIP 2009 R&D Awards: Advanced Materials in Manufacturing
Lead Grantee Description TIP Award Total value
Brewer Science, Inc. Production of Low-Cost, High-Quality Metallic and Semiconducting Single Wall Carbon Nanotube Inks. Develop technologies for the cost-effective production of high-purity, high-quality, metallic and semiconducting carbon nanotube “inks” to enable commercial production of a wide variety of high-performing electronic devices for energy, flexible electronic and sensor applications. $6.527 M $13.91 M
Angstron Materials, LLC Functionalized Nano Graphene for Next-Generation Nano-Enhanced Products. Develop processes for mass-producing chemically modified (“functionalized”) nano graphene for next-generation products, particularly for the energy industries. $1.494 M $2.988 M
Regents of UW System Transformational Casting Technology for Fabrication of Ultra-High Performance Lightweight Aluminum and Magnesium Nanocomposites. Develop a novel casting technology, based on ultrasonic cavitation dispersion of nanoparticles in metal melts, for large-scale production of aluminum and magnesium matrix nanocomposites. $4.863 M $10.092 M
Hyper Tech Research, Inc High-Speed, Continuous Manufacturing of Nano-Doped Magnesium Diboride Superconductors for Next-Generation MRI Systems. Develop a practical, industrial scale continuous manufacturing process for magnesium diboride superconducting wires and other wire products requiring a hollow metal tube around a powder-based core. $3 M $6.05 M
Liquidia Technologies, Inc PRINT® Nanomanufacturing: Enabling Rationally Designed Nanoparticles for Next-Generation Therapeutics. Scale up to practical commercial volumes a novel nanoparticle manufacturing process based on nanoscale molding to produce engineered nanoparticles of specific sizes, shapes and materials for therapeutic applications. $2.971 M $5.942 M
Third Wave Systems, Inc Integrated Multiscale Modeling for Development of Machinable Advanced Alloys and Corresponding Component Machining Processes. Develop and demonstrate integrated multiscale physics-based predictive modeling for developing more machinable advanced alloys and the corresponding component machining processing data needed by manufacturers. $1.564 M $3.170 M
wTe Corporation Building US Strategic Metals Competitiveness Through Integration of Advanced Sensor Technologies. Develop and scale-up to commercial levels a suite of novel, optoelectronic inspection technologies to accurately identify and sort aerospace metals such as titanium and nickel/cobalt superalloys at ultra-high speeds so they can be recycled more cost effectively and also to enhance melting capacity for existing furnaces by measuring composition in-situ, in real time. $5.670 M $11.532 M
Ebert Composites Corporation Homogeneous Three-Dimensional Pultruded Processing of PEEK, PEI, and PPS High Temperature Thermoplastic Composite Profiles. Develop a state-of-the-art manufacturing process to automate, on a large scale, the production of three-dimensional fiber composites with high temperature thermoplastics. $1.866 M $4.018 M
eSpin Technologies, Inc. High-Risk, Low-Cost Carbon Nanofiber Manufacturing Process Scale-Up. Develop a commercial-scale manufacturing process for producing self-supporting, non-woven fabrics of both natural and activated carbon nanofibers. $3 M $6.006 M
Pixelligent Technologies, LLC Development and Scale-Up of Nanocomposites with Sub-10nm Particles. Develop new processes and technologies for scaling up the production of high quality nanocomposites, by incorporating nanocrystals with precisely controlled size, shape, and surface chemistry into a polymer matrix for demanding and high-volume industrial applications. $4.089 M $8.178 M

TIP 2009 R&D Awards: Monitoring and Retrofit of Civil Infrastructure
Lead Grantee Description TIP Award Total value
The Droid Works, Inc Civil Infrastructure Inspection and Monitoring Using Unmanned Air Vehicles. Develop the technologies required to create small, hovering, Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) for use in the inspection and monitoring of large-scale civil infrastructure elements such as bridges and dams. $2.453 M $4.996 M
Rutgers Automated Nondestructive Evaluation and Rehabilitation System (ANDERS) for Bridge Decks. Develop a mobile integrated system for nondestructive evaluation and repair of bridge decks, including human-operated and robotic systems that merge novel imaging and NDE techniques together with innovative intervention approaches to arrest deterioration processes. $8.810 M $17.923 M
Optellios, Inc Distributed Fiber-Optic Sensing Technology For Civil Infrastructure Management. Develop a distributed fiber-optic sensing technology to enable real-time monitoring, identifying and locating disturbances and changes over long stretches of pipelines. $1.930 M $3.917 M
Fibrwrap Construction, Inc Robotic Rehabilitation of Aging Water Pipelines. Develop a prototype robot to apply carbon fiber reinforcement inside water transmission pipes, allowing trenchless repair and rehabilitation, even in smaller pipes, as much as 11 times faster than human crews. $8.462 M $17.582 M
LMK Enterprises, Inc A Rapid Underground Pipe Rehabilitation Technology. Develop an advanced trenchless technology to rehabilitate the nation’s network of underground pipes by employing a novel dynamic resin-injection, molded-in-place pipe (MIPP) process, which can incorporate nanomaterials. $1.701 M $3.411 M
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Development of a Multiscale Monitoring and Health Assessment Framework for Effective Management of Levees and Flood-Control Infrastructure Systems. Develop a new health assessment framework, ranging from a satellite-based radar system to local sensor arrays to monitor, assess the health, and ensure the safety of levees and other distributed systems of a flood-control infrastructure. $3.462 M $6.928 M
UCLA Development of High-Toughness, Low-Viscosity Resin for Reinforcing Pothole Patching Materials. Develop an innovative pothole repair technology for asphalt pavement in both warm and cold weather using an ultra-high toughness, nano-molecular resin as a reinforcement or binder for the asphalt-aggregate pothole repair material. $1.499 M $3.051 M
MesoCoat, Inc Advanced Coating Technology for Infrastructure. Develop a novel coating technology using a high-intensity infrared light source to fuse and bond nanocomposite metal coatings and claddings to large steel structures such as bridges, oil rigs and pipelines. $1.792 M $3.956 M



Neccessary valuable research projects to develop improved electrodes for future higher performance batteries.

Battery improvement in energy density, power handling (i/p and o/p) plus durability at lower cost are all required for PHEVs and BEVs to replace current ICE vehicles.


Will better application of nanotechnologies bring about a 500+ Wh/Kg battery by 2015?


"Development of High-Toughness, Low-Viscosity Resin for Reinforcing Pothole Patching Materials"

That one may have slipped in under the radar. This could become another "Fleecing of America" story like the Bridge to Nowhere. I would advise them to restrict funding where people see immediate benefits for the energy picture. I like repaired potholes as much as anyone, but it might not belong here.

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