Newswise — This morning at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory, leaders from DOE and Argonne cut the ribbon on a new era of manufacturing — science and technology that will accelerate commercialization of complex materials and chemicals critically important to U.S. competitiveness.
Today’s small gathering marked the completion of the expansion of Argonne’s Materials Engineering Research Facility (MERF), a now 28,000-square-foot facility where 50 scientists, engineers and support staff are developing scalable manufacturing technologies for advanced, challenging-to-make energy materials and chemicals. Leveraging the Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) for real-time measurements and analysis of the new technologies and the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning into process development, researchers develop innovative, scalable manufacturing processes, produce kilogram quantities of experimental materials and distribute them for industrial evaluation and prototyping.
“The MERF has been integral to innovations that have invigorated the U.S. battery manufacturing industry,” said Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark W. Menezes. “The expanded MERF will help bridge the gap between early-stage research and development and industrial production by using cutting-edge scientific tools to scale up production of novel materials and chemicals.”
“More than doubling previous space, the new MERF increases the capacity for researchers from Argonne, industry, other national labs and academia to collaborate on manufacturing science and engineering,” said Argonne Director Paul Kearns. “The MERF is enhancing our nation’s manufacturing power by giving our partners access to equipment and expertise needed to invent new processes for producing transformative materials,” Kearns said.
Since opening its doors in 2012, the MERF has worked with nearly 60 industrial partners, 10 national labs and 18 academic institutions.
Scientists and engineers are working with more than a dozen new manufacturing process technologies, such as electrospinning, a nanofiber fabrication method that can produce nano- to micrometer diameter ceramic, polymer and metallic fibers for applications including water and air filtration, fuel cell electrodes, lithium battery electrolytes and improved N95 masks.
“By investing in the MERF, Argonne is delivering on DOE and industry priorities in advanced materials and chemicals manufacturing,” said Greg Krumdick, director of the Applied Materials division at Argonne. Krumdick motivated the creation of the initial MERF and the establishment of the laboratory's Manufacturing Science and Engineering initiative, which resulted in the expansion. “We are meeting the challenge of accelerating the transition of new materials into commercial applications.”
The APS and ALCF are DOE Office of Science User Facilities.
Construction of the original MERF was supported by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO). Inquiries about the MERF and Argonne’s Manufacturing Science and Engineering program can be directed to [email protected].
Santanu Chaudhuri, director of Manufacturing Science and Engineering, Argonne
“With the laboratory’s unique ability to scale, Argonne’s Manufacturing Science and Engineering program encompasses the entire value chain from discovery to performance testing to recycling.”
Juan de Pablo, vice president for National Laboratories, The University of Chicago
“The Materials Engineering Research Facility will assist us in further building a pipeline of future scientists, engineers and researchers and is a critical part of our workforce development efforts, both at the University and at Argonne.”
Dr. Chris Fall, director of the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy
“By leveraging Office of Science user facilities located right here at Argonne, including the Advanced Photon Source for real-time measurements and analysis of new manufacturing technologies and the Argonne Leadership Computing Facility to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning into process development, researchers at the Materials Engineering Research Facility are enhancing the scientific basis for the next generation of manufacturing technologies.”
Daniel Simmons, assistant secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
“Argonne’s Materials Engineering Research Facility supports DOE work toward new materials critical to energy and security, embodying the department’s grand challenges in energy storage, water security and circular economy. The work being done here, to accelerate the scale-up and commercialization of critical materials, is essential for U.S. competitiveness.”
Suresh Sunderrajan, associate laboratory director for Energy & Global Security, Argonne
“Material discovery historically has been slow, taking many years to move new materials to market. Argonne’s science-based manufacturing approach accelerates development and addresses a key ‘valley of death’ in commercialization.”
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.