The US Department of Energy launched the Energy Materials Network (EMN), a new National Laboratory-led initiative. Leveraging $40 million in federal funding in its first year, EMN will focus on tackling one of the major barriers to widespread commercialization of clean energy technologies: the design, testing, and production of advanced materials. By strengthening and facilitating industry access to the unique scientific and technical advanced materials innovation resources available at DOE’s National Labs, the network will help bring these materials to market more quickly.
DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy is providing the funding to establish EMN’s four initial National Laboratory-led consortia and solicit proposals for collaborative R&D projects with industry and academia. Each EMN consortium will bring together National Labs, industry, and academia to focus on specific classes of materials aligned with industry’s most pressing challenges related to materials for clean energy technologies.
The Lightweight Materials Consortium (LightMat), led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will enable increased vehicle fuel efficiency by designing specialized alloys and carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites that can be manufactured on a large scale. LightMat’s industrial partners will be able to use LightMat’s streamlined collaboration tools, such as simplified technology transfer agreements to facilitate access to the capabilities of the nine National Labs who are participating in this consortium.
The Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat), led by Argonne National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, will be dedicated to finding new ways to replace the rare and costly platinum group metals currently used in hydrogen fuel cells with more abundant and inexpensive substitutes – such as the earth-abundant metals iron and cobalt. Finding an alternative to platinum for fuel cells will mean lower costs for U.S. manufacturers and consumers, addressing a key barrier to fuel cell deployment in a wide range of applications such as power plants and vehicles.
The Caloric Cooling Consortium (CaloriCool), led by Ames Laboratory, will leverage the lab’s capabilities in the field of “caloric” refrigerant materials to develop, demonstrate and deploy these innovative cooling technologies. Accelerating the development of caloric materials could lead to an overall reduction in US energy demand for cooling and will facilitate a move from today’s refrigerants towards an environmentally friendly and energy-efficient cooling solution.
One additional consortium focused on developing new materials to make solar photovoltaic modules more durable and cost-effective will be established later this year.
In Fiscal Year 2017, more than $120 million in funding has been requested to continue to support an enduring network of capabilities in these areas and to launch three more consortia to investigate additional classes of advanced materials for clean energy (catalysts for biofuels and bioproducts, materials for renewable hydrogen production, and low-pressure, materials-based hydrogen storage).
Overall, the EMN consortia will form a network of advanced materials R&D capabilities and resources that will support the Administration’s commitment to revitalizing American manufacturing and maintaining a competitive edge in the clean energy economy. This effort supports the President’s Materials Genome Initiative, which is working to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost. EMN also supports the recommendations of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership 2.0, a White House-convened working group of leaders from industry, academia, and labor, which highlighted the importance of producing advanced materials for technologies critical to US competitiveness in manufacturing.