The project is under the DoE’s Office of Science, Mr. Howell explained, and is similar in concept to an Energy Frontier Research Center, “but obviously a lot larger than that.” He described it as a program “to develop a center or more than one center of R&D in the nation focused on basic electrochemical research.”
To get a better idea of the concept, Mr. Howell suggested looking at several hubs already awarded by the Office of Science. “I don’t expect the structure to be any different than what they’ve awarded in the past,” he said. The President requested that the center focus on energy storage, but he noted that “it is not obvious that this is going to happen at this point.”
Dr. Wessner asked Ms. Zarnadelli of TARDEC whether the Small Business Research Innovation program has been an effective tool for the U.S. Army and whether it provides enough money.
SBIR projects do have enough money, she responded. She said TARDEC has been very successful in getting grants in the battery area, with three topics funded in 2009 and another three approved in 2010. “So we are very successful in SBIR topics and getting Phase I and Phase II funds,” Ms. Zarnadelli said.
Dr. Wessner asked whether there was much pressure for the Army to reduce requirements of battery systems.
“No,” Ms. Zarndelli responded. Assessments are being done on the power of mission equipment, but “some are just necessary,” she said. There also is a new requirement for environmental control, which means air conditioning to keep crews cool. “That and the load needed to cool power electronics are what really are driving these power requirements up,” she said.
Dr. Wessner asked Dr. Brodd of the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Center whether there are “substantial industry partners willing to contribute” to the center. He also asked whether Kentucky would be able to maintain funding given the difficult economic climate and prevailing “short-termism” in the country.
The state of Kentucky can sustain the program, Dr. Brodd replied. The state has agreed to fund the center, and the deans of engineering of Kentucky and Louisville have strongly endorsed it and are enthusiastic about it. “But as things get going it will require help with equipment and things of that nature,” he said, adding that the center probably will be calling on the generosity of David Howell at the DoE.