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US unveils $40m initiative to develop better materials for clean energy

EBR Staff Writer Published 25 February 2016

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a new $40m initiative to accelerate advanced materials research and development (R&D) for clean energy solutions.

The National Laboratory-led initiative, Energy Materials Network (EMN), is aimed at designing, testing, and production of advanced materials.

In particular, the initiative aims to decrease the time-to-market for advanced materials innovations for clean energy technologies.

DOE Under Secretary Franklin (Lynn) Orr said: "By bringing together American manufacturing expertise, academic leadership in discovering new materials, and the exceptional capabilities of DOE's National Labs, the Energy Materials Network can spark a revolution in commercializing clean energy materials."

The EMN's four initial consortia will be backed by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The funding will help in establishing EMN's four initial National Laboratory-led consortia and solicit proposals for collaborative R&D projects with industry and academia.

Launched as part of the initiative, the Lightweight Materials National Lab Consortium (LightMat) aims to increase vehicle fuel efficiency by deigning specialized alloys and carbon fiber reinforced polymer composites to enable manufacturing on a large scale.

Additionally, the Electrocatalysis Consortium (ElectroCat) will assess ways to replace the rare and costly platinum group metals which are used in hydrogen fuel cells in order reduce costs.

The Caloric Cooling Consortium (CaloriCool) will accelerate the development of caloric materials in a bid to reduce US energy demand for cooling.

Another consortium is planned to be established later. It will focus on developing new materials which can make solar photovoltaic modules more durable and cost-effective.

DOE Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Assistant Secretary David Danielson said that the energy materials network, the National Labs and their partners will develop and apply new materials research tools to dramatically accelerate clean energy materials discovery.

Danielson added: "This could be a true game-changer for accelerating cost reduction through innovation for a wide array of clean energy technologies all across the board."

The research is a part of the government's Materials Genome initiative, which aims to discover, manufacture, and deploy advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost.