CWRU receives funding to lead research in energy storage for defense, aerospace industries

Funding establishes campus-based Center of Excellence with university and corporate partners

The State of Ohio’s Federal Research Network (FRN) awarded Case Western Reserve University $1.65 million over two years to research and develop energy storage resources for the defense and aerospace industries as part of a statewide strategy to stimulate economic development and jobs.

The state investment, designed to encourage further funding from the federal government and industry, creates—as part of Case Western Reserve’s Great Lakes Energy Institute—the Partnership for Research in Energy Storage and Integration for Defense and Space Exploration (PRESIDES) Center of Excellence, a new consortium with other Ohio universities and industry partners.

The FRN Centers of Excellence are designed to advance the state’s research and commercialization of developing technologies—especially those supporting NASA Glenn Research Center and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (AFRL). Case Western Reserve was one of four Ohio universities to receive Round 1 awards for 2016-17, totaling $7.1 million in state funding.

Alexis AbramsonFor the first round of funding, three energy storage projects will be implemented that support the Federal Research Network’s plan to establish and maintain Ohio as a leader in federal research.

“We are focusing on developing next-generation batteries that are safe and lightweight and high performance to enhance applications across sectors,” said PRESIDES Director Alexis Abramson, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and director of the Great Lakes Energy Institute at Case Western Reserve.

Project Descriptions

  • The first project explores developing a high-energy-density lithium ion battery. The result would transform current lithium ion chemistries to produce batteries with higher capacity and longer life by using novel silicon anodes.
  • Project two investigates a new approach to lithium-sulfur battery development using a solid ion, ceramic-based electrolyte and graphene cathode to meet the target requirements—the result of which would be a battery that safely operates in high temperatures.
  • Project three explores a new approach to energy storage focused on embedding batteries within the structure, thus lowering the overall weight

“These three projects,” said Rohan Akolkar, an associate professor of chemical engineering at Case School of Engineering and faculty director of PRESIDES, “will address several critical scientific challenges in realizing high-energy-density lithium batteries. Our teams will aim to develop new battery materials for improving battery performance and safety.”

The eventual goal: creating energy storage technologies that benefit AFRL and NASA Glenn that have demonstrated commercial viability and the potential to attract additional federal and industry investment.

Developing advanced energy storage solutions that address limitations is a priority for both NASA Glenn and AFRL. A broad range of NASA science, human exploration and aeronautics missions need high-performance, rechargeable batteries for load-leveling and electrical power.

“Case Western Reserve has enjoyed an extensive history with NASA since its founding,” said Anne Borchert, assistant vice president for corporate relations and strategic projects. “It’s great to have significant exploration bringing these two research partners together to benefit the state.”

The Air Force maintains a large number of military assets, including multiple types of systems worn by soldiers that rely heavily on power provided by rechargeable batteries. Even more, the rechargeable energy storage commercial market is nearly $6 billion and growing quickly, due to increased demand from the renewable energy, transportation and defense sectors.

PRESIDES will measure its success using several goals, such as attracting more than $500,000 in external funding at the end of two years and more than $2 million within three years.

Project Partners

Case Western Reserve’s PRESIDES partners are:

  • Ohio State University,
  • University of Akron,
  • University of Toledo,
  • University of Dayton,
  • Lubrizol Corp.,
  • pHMatter,
  • GrafTech,
  • CRG and
  • UES Inc.

With battery research active in multiple universities statewide, Ohio boasts one of the most active energy storage research communities in the country. For example, CWRU has been a recognized leader in electrochemistry for decades. The University of Dayton has a strong research program developing novel electrodes and electrolytes and houses a robust battery testing facility. State funds will allow PRESIDES to capitalize on this existing research momentum to grow Ohio into a national leader in the energy storage field.

Established in 2009, the Great Lakes Energy Institute provides support to about 100 Case Western Reserve faculty members conducting research in critical areas of energy, including future grid and smart buildings, renewables through a materials and big-data approach, sensors and sensor systems for oil and gas, and energy storage.