In an attempt to develop batteries that are five times more powerful and cheaper than today's batteries in less than five years, the U.S. Department of Energy is launching an Energy Innovation Hub, called the Battery and Energy Storage Hub.

The project will be conducted by a new institution called the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research, which will be located at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. The hub will be the “most advanced energy storage research program in the country,” according to Energy.gov, and will cost $120 million.

Improved battery storage will affect two important energy sectors: transportation and the grid.

Moving new technologies from labs to the private sector quickly is intended to boost the U.S. economy while also supporting emerging technologies such as solar and wind power. A five-fold improvement in both battery effectiveness and price is expected to encourage widespread adoption of technology that may now be considered experimental or not entirely practical.

Such widespread adoption could also prove culturally transformative -- just as improvements in microprocessor, touch-screen and imaging technologies put a mini computers and cameras in nearly everyone's pockets, a reduction in the cost of battery technology could make it more reasonable for people to purchase home-energy systems that provide 80 percent of their needed power, U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu told ComputerWorld.

It's “very, very important for American industrial competitiveness that research be intimately linked with manufacturing in a way that will propel the United States forward,”he said. “This is what the whole Hub concept is about.”

Photo: Argonne scientists Ira Bloom (front) and Javier Bareño prepare a sample of battery materials for Raman spectroscopy, which is used to gather information regarding the nature of the materials present in the sample. Photo courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory.