Diagram of the DEGREES proposal. (Image: NREL)
Diagram of the DEGREES proposal. (Image: NREL)

The Advanced Crystallography program at NSF’s ChemMatCARS will play a pivotal role in the characterization of emerging energy materials through the utilization of state-of-the-art crystallography techniques under a proposal funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as part of the DOE Energy Earthshot Research Centers (EERCs).

The proposal, “DEGREES – DEGradation Reactions in Electrothermal Energy Storage,” is a multi-institution initiative led by Dr. Judith Vidal of DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It is funded for $390,000 as a DOE Long Duration Storage Shot EERC, one of the seven DOE Energy Earthshots. Research Professor Yu-Sheng Chen (University of Chicago), head of the ChemMatCARS Advanced Crystallography program, is a member of the DEGREES Experimental and Modeling team.

Yu-Sheng Chen in the Advanced Crystallography research station at ChemMatCARS.

DEGREES will advance our fundamental understanding of materials used for long-duration energy storage in support of a future-ready decarbonized grid. Coupling theory, powerful computational tools, and novel characterization approaches, this research will (1) provide understanding of thermal energy storage material degradation, (2) work to control the degradation and instabilities, and (3) design improved materials that are durable and high performing.

In addition to ChemMatCARS of the University of Chicago, researchers from the DOE’s Argonne and Brookhaven national laboratories, the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas at Dallas, American University, the Georgia Institute of Technology, and NRRL, as the lead laboratory, are participants in DEGREES.

The DOE EERCs establish a new era of cross-office research cooperation. Launched in FY 2023, the EERCs will build off the success of SC’s Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) and the Scientific Discovery Through Advanced Computing (SciDAC) program, bringing together multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary teams to perform energy-relevant research with a scope and complexity beyond what is possible in standard single-investigator or small-group awards. The EERCs will address the key basic research challenges facing the Energy Earthshots with relevance to applied research and development activities.

Each center is led by a DOE national laboratory with partners across the U.S. from academia and industry. These centers are composed of collaborative research teams spanning multiple scientific and engineering disciplines. The DOE national laboratories have a proven track-record leading multi-investigator, multi-disciplinary teams necessary to address the complex research challenges to realize Energy Earthshot stretch goals. Each center will address key research challenges of one of the initial six Energy Earthshots. The total awards for all severn Earthshot proposals amount to $264 million.

NSF’s ChemMatCARS, Sector 15 at the Advanced Photon Source (APS), Argonne National Laboratory, is supported by the Divisions of Chemistry (CHE) and Materials Research (DMR), National Science Foundation, under grant number NSF/CHE- 1834750.