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Schumer seeks LI battery research grant

Esther Takeuchi, head of Brookhaven Lab’s advanced energy

Esther Takeuchi, head of Brookhaven Lab’s advanced energy research, talks to Sen. Charles Schumer at Stony Brook University. Other national labs are also vying for the $120-million battery project. (June 25, 2012) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Sen. Charles Schumer (D- N.Y.) said Monday he would push for $120 million from Washington to develop super-efficient batteries on Long Island that could someday slash the nation's dependence on fossil fuels.

The five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Energy would fund research led by Stony Brook University and Brookhaven National Laboratory to develop longer-lasting batteries to power electric cars and store energy generated from wind, water and sun. Officials estimate the project would create up to 270 jobs on Long Island and could eventually lead to hundreds more at upstate factories.

"Long Island has the expertise, research facilities and the tools to revolutionize the electric vehicle and commercial battery market," Schumer said in a statement.

The effort comes as local research institutions including Brookhaven, Stony Brook and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory are pushing to harness the commercial potential of high-tech research on Long Island, hoping scientific breakthroughs will stimulate job growth.

Scientists believe batteries are crucial to solving the world's energy problems and could revolutionize the U.S. economy. Using large batteries made from superconductors, energy companies could stockpile massive amounts of electricity from wind turbines and solar panels to use when demand peaks. Smaller batteries could power electric cars that drive 300 miles on a single charge, scientists say.

"This is not ivory-tower research. This is research that companies can commercialize," said Esther Takeuchi, who joined Brookhaven earlier this month to head advanced energy research projects.

Takeuchi, who is also on Stony Brook's faculty, is an electrochemist and among the world's leading energy storage researchers. She has received more than 140 patents and in 2009 was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Barack Obama.

At least five other research institutions have applied for the funding, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville, Tenn., and Argonne National Laboratory outside of Chicago. The Department of Energy is expected to award the grant by Oct. 1.

Officials hope Brookhaven has a tool giving Long Island a leg up: the National Synchrotron Light Source. The massive facility propels electrons at nearly the speed of light, creating X-rays that allow scientists to peer deeply into the inner workings of batteries, helping them figure out the best ways to bottle energy.

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