Energy Department awards five new Argonne-business collaborations

Newswise — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced last week that 43 small businesses will participate in the second round of the Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot. With vouchers in hand, these businesses can better leverage the world-class capabilities of the DOE’s national laboratories and bring their next-generation clean energy technologies to the marketplace faster.

Five of the awards involve collaborations with DOE's Argonne National Laboratory, totaling more than $690,000.

“We need to accelerate the pace of clean energy innovation to build stronger economy and a brighter, cleaner future for our nation,” said David Friedman, Acting Assistant Secretary for the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “The Small Business Vouchers pilot breaks down barriers for some of our greatest entrepreneurial minds, allowing them to work with our national laboratories across sectors and industries to accelerate a clean energy revolution that’s been underway since 2008.”

The Energy Department opened the first round of SBV, a Technology-to-Market Lab Impact pilot, in fall 2015. In SBV’s first round, 33 small businesses were selected to receive vouchers totaling $6.7 million. Thursday’s 43 awards total more than $8 million. To date, DOE's SBV pilot has connected 76 small businesses with the labs, totaling $15 million worth of vouchers.

The Argonne-associated collaborations are as follows:

Accelerating commercialization of advanced silicon alloy cells, in collaboration with SiNode Systems, Inc. (Chicago): SiNode Systems is an advanced materials manufacturer that has developed a unique platform of silicon-graphene anode materials to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. The intent is to leverage Argonne’s battery prototyping facility to probe the relationship between SiNode anode materials, electrode and cell properties on battery expansion under commercially relevant conditions.

Chassis dyno evaluation of the XL3 hybrid electric Isuzu Reach, in collaboration with XL Hybrids Inc. (Boston): XL Hybrids intends to perform chassis dyno testing, validation and improvement of its XL3 hybrid electric upfit for the diesel Isuzu Reach Class 3 truck. XL Hybrids believes Argonne’s high-fidelity testing environment and expertise will help it achieve improved validation and performance of the XL3 Reach product.

Drop-in fuels and chemicals from renewables through catalysis, in collaboration with Virent, Inc. (Madison, Wis.): Virent has developed proprietary technology to catalytically convert biomass-derived feedstock into directly fungible fuels (and chemicals) at demonstration quantities. It is now ready for further scale-up. The cooperation with Argonne would enable further development of the catalysts towards commercial deployment.

Hydrogen/air silicon-based fuel cell, in collaboration with Neah Power Systems (Bothell, Wash.): The hydrogen/air silicon-based fuel cell extends the proven liquid/liquid fuel cell architecture to a gas/gas (hydrogen/air) fuel cell architecture. This technology can reduce the cost, lower the catalyst loading per watt of energy, and by using a liquid electrolyte, eliminate ambient sensitivity.

Scaling HPC simulations to improve engine efficiency and emissions, in collaboration with Convergent Science (Madison, Wis.): To meet the needs of automotive companies, one of the biggest challenges facing society today is determining how to achieve predictive engine simulations in the shortest amount of time. Convergent and Argonne intend to overcome this challenge through high-performance computing.

A full list of the SBV projects may be viewed online.

In addition to advanced manufacturing, bioenergy, fuel cells and vehicles, other areas in which Argonne has capabilities that are supported by the SBV program are buildings, solar, water and wind. The small businesses selected Thursday will have the ability to work with 12 different national laboratories, now including Savannah River National Laboratory, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the National Energy Technology Laboratory.

This is in addition to the other core national laboratories already facilitating the pilot: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, as well as Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne, Idaho National Laboratory, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, who are currently partnering with small businesses on projects.

With 23 million small businesses currently operating in the U.S., the pilot is heavily targeted to attract companies that typically would not have access to the DOE national laboratories’ scientific expertise and resources. The SBV pilot makes it possible to direct the power of the national laboratories toward specific problems identified by small businesses by pairing these companies with a national laboratory uniquely qualified to solve their challenges.

SBV is a collaborative, national effort that provides $20 million for U.S. companies to help improve industry awareness of national laboratory capabilities and provide small and mid-size businesses access to the resources available within the national laboratory system. Following open calls for “Requests for Assistance”, businesses are competitively selected to work with a national laboratory to address their needs and are provided vouchers, worth up to $300,000 at the laboratory.

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 the Office of Science website.The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality. SBV is part of EERE’s Technology-to-Market program. To learn more about the pilot, including eligibility and how to apply, visit