Argonne Launches Construction of $95M USD Next-Gen Energy Lab

With other countries like China and Japan increasingly looking to establish themselves as leaders in alternative energy, and with carbon emissions becoming a serious international concern, the U.S. is eager to maintain its lead on the cutting edge of energy research.  Argonne National Laboratories, which we recently caught up with concerning a solar power grant, has just received the first round of U.S. Department of Energy funding for a brand new $95M USD lab that will help the U.S. to develop advanced alternative energy solutions.

The initial funding came in at $8M USD and will fund much of the initial construction of the new lab, dubbed the Energy Sciences Building (ESB).  Construction on the building will begin in 2011. 

Argonne Director Eric Isaacs says the new lab is vitally needed as many of the research center’s labs are aging badly.  He states, “The ESB will house the kind of research infrastructure that is necessary to conduct breakthrough science.  Compared to many of Argonne’s existing buildings, some of which are more than 50 years old, the ESB will enable highly interactive scientific collaborations by bringing together in one place energy-related scientific research that is presently spread throughout the Argonne campus.”

Al Sattelberger, associate laboratory director for Energy Sciences and Engineering highlighted the new lab’s agenda, stating, “The work in the ESB will focus on four central themes associated with Argonne’s energy security strategy, strengthen our basic research capabilities, and facilitate synergies that enhance both.  The ESB is another step in Argonne’s long-range campus modernization plan”

The lab will be a hotbed for materials research.  One of the four key types of research will be energy conversion materials, including photovoltaics and thermal fluids.  A second key objective is to develop more efficient solar power harvesting devices.  A third research focus is to develop better catalysts and materials for fuel cells, considered a potential candidate to drive future vehicles.  A final focus is to improve energy storage solutions, reducing the possibility of interruptions from wind or solar power sources.

The lab is scheduled to be completed in 2014.  Located in the northern section of the ANL campus, the multi-story building will offer 140,000 square feet and offer workspace for an estimated 250 employees.

The new lab comes as part of a sweeping modernization effort by the Office of Science (SC), which oversees Argonne and nine other basic science-oriented national laboratories for the U.S. DOE.  Describes Angela Harvey, director of the Infrastructure, Programs and Projects Division at the DOE Argonne Site Office, “The focus of this modernization effort is major capital investment in the infrastructure to ensure the continued vitality of the national laboratories and to improve the readiness of the infrastructure to support current and future missions of DOE.  This initiative involves all the SC laboratories and includes more than 30 projects totaling more than $2 billion.  The end result will be modern, safe, quality infrastructure that will allow the laboratories to ensure scientific leadership now and in the future.”

While Argonne National Laboratory is government-funded, its independently managed by the business UChicago Argonne LLC.  Located in Illinois, near Chicago, the lab cooperates with hundreds of universities on research and employs researchers from over 60 countries.  Research programs include physics, chemistry, electronics, alternative energy, automotive research, and more.