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Accelerating Materials Development for a Clean-Energy Future

A new initiative, the Energy Materials Network, will accelerate innovation around the clean-energy manufacturing industry's most pressing materials challenges.

Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Economic Council joined the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for an event on the White House complex to celebrate the launch of the Energy Materials Network. DOE’s Energy Materials Network (EMN) will accelerate innovation around the clean-energy industry’s most pressing materials challenges, from early development stages to manufacturing, through targeted national laboratory-based consortia. These consortia are designed to transform the United States’ approach to materials research and development by tackling key issues facing clean-energy manufacturers. Through this network, DOE will advance the goals of the Administration’s Materials Genome Initiative, advanced manufacturing initiatives, and technology-transfer priorities.

Affordable, reliable, high performance materials are key enablers for countless transformational technology advancements, including clean-energy applications. However, many materials discoveries made in the laboratory today never reach widespread market deployment, or spend too long in costly development cycles—it often takes 15-20 years for advanced materials to make it from lab to market. As a result, the development timeframe for advanced materials isn’t keeping pace with America’s goals to combat climate change and build a clean-energy economy.

The Energy Materials Network will address these challenges by establishing a network of research and development consortia led by DOE’s National Laboratories and focused around specific materials needed for clean-energy manufacturing. As described at today’s event, which was attended by representatives from industry, academia, and national laboratories, each consortium will be composed of multiple national labs with the specialized facilities and expertise needed to advance one focus area of materials development, in order to improve manufacturing of a specific clean-energy technology. By serving as a single point of contact, each consortium will help stakeholders from industry and academia quickly identify and efficiently access national lab-based materials research resources available to them.

DOE will invest $40 million in FY 2016 to establish the first four consortia and to fund competitively awarded collaborative research and development projects that partner companies and universities with the lab-based consortia. The first consortia will be focused on the development of lightweight materials for automotive manufacturing; durable materials to enable modular photovoltaic systems; next-generation catalysts and membrane electrodes for fuel cells; and materials for cooling systems that are more energy-efficient.

Through EMN’s national lab-led consortia, DOE will integrate all stages of materials development, from discovery through functional design and qualification, while also incorporating considerations related to manufacturing processing, scale-up, and end-use performance. This comprehensive approach supports the Administration’s advanced manufacturing initiatives and is key to achieving the Material Genome Initiative’s goal of discovering, manufacturing, and deploying advanced materials twice as fast, at a fraction of the cost. And by leveraging the National Labs’ continued investments in materials and further opening their capabilities and expertise to industry and academia, the network will ensure that the research DOE supports is immediately relevant and transferrable, helping achieve an Administration priority of accelerating the laboratory-to-market transition.

Megan Brewster is Senior Policy Advisor for Advanced Manufacturing at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Lloyd Whitman is Assistant Director for Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Reuben Sarkar is Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation at the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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