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Power Up

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

We all know the ability of batteries to power everything from children's toys to automobiles. But what if that's only the beginning of their functions? Electrical engineering Assistant Professor David Wetz's research focuses on figuring out just that, and he is pushing batteries harder and farther than they've ever been pushed before.

His goal is to make them store more energy in smaller packages for much larger applications. This is particularly important to the wind and solar industries because they need ways to store energy when it is dark or when the wind isn't blowing.

Re-Engineered = A New Way of Looking at the Objects of Everyday Life

"You don't have a wall outlet everywhere, so sometimes you need batteries for power," Dr. Wetz explains. "From an engineering perspective, the goal is to store more energy in smaller packages, design those packages so they can release that energy quickly at a higher power, and improve safety so they can be used anywhere. We're looking at all different types and sizes, ranging from high-power to high-energy."

Wetz was awarded a Young Investigator Award in 2011 by the U.S. Office of Navy Research to study batteries that deliver an isolated power supply that can drive directed-energy weapons without affecting the rate at which a ship moves.

Recently, he and electrical engineering Professor Wei-Jen Lee were named affiliate partners of Argonne National Laboratory's Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR). JCESR's mission is to create batteries that are five times more powerful—and five times less expensive—than current ones within five years. As affiliate partners, they may be called upon to train and educate the next generation of energy researchers in the United States and contribute expertise in specialized areas of research using both the knowledge of the research staff and the current infrastructure.