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Monday, 20 June 2011

GE Uses DOE Advanced Light Sources to Develop Revolutionary Battery Technology

DOE Office of Science
June 14, 2011

The story of American manufacturing over the past two decades has too often been a tale of outsourcing, off-shoring, and downsizing—not least in Upstate New York, which has probably seen more than its fair share of factory shutdowns and job losses in recent years. Today, however, General Electric is bucking the trend, putting the finishing touches on a new manufacturing facility in Schenectady. The plant, which will begin operations toward the end of the year, is eventually expected to create more than 300 jobs. It will produce a new advanced line of heavy duty batteries, which GE plans to sell to telecoms, utilities, data centers, and other industrial and transportation customers worldwide.

The new batteries, based on sodium metal halide technology, boast three times the energy density and charging power of the lead-acid batteries they are designed to replace, according to the company. GE engineers also say the batteries have long cycle life, withstanding thousands upon thousands of charge and discharge cycles, for expected lifetimes of up to twenty years, and can operate in a wide range of temperature environments.

To help achieve these breakthroughs, GE researchers relied on two of the Nation's most advanced and sophisticated scientific user facilities, the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island and the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at DOE's Argonne National Laboratory outside Chicago. NSLS enabled GE researchers to understand in detail the internal chemistry of an actual commercial battery while charging and discharging in real time. Additional studies of battery cross-sections at APS helped engineers further understand the system.

The data gathered from the two light sources helped GE's engineers to fine-tune battery design to maximize performance and improve reliability, creating what they say will be a world-leading technology.
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