A materials science and engineering professor at Iowa State University is working with other researchers around the world to develop better batteries. Steve Martin’s primary focus right now is building batteries that can store energy produced by the more than 2,100 wind turbines spinning across Iowa.
Unlike batteries for cell phones or laptops, size is not much of a concern in the making of batteries for wind farms. “The weight (of the battery) is not such a big issue. The volume is an issue, but you can have a little bit of flexibility in weight and volume,” Martin said. “So, the issue becomes cost – because you have a huge battery installation, you can’t afford for them to be very expensive.”
Martin spoke with Radio Iowa from Korea, where he was invited to lecture at a university. He also spent two weeks at a university in China. Martin says aside from I.S.U., not many colleges in the United States are doing battery research. “That’s one of the reasons why I’m over here…to see what the competition is like,” Martin said.
“It’s pretty significant. It’s not like the 50s and 60s when the United States was kind of the preeminent scientific and technological power. These folks know what they’re doing and they’re working very quick.” Many breakthroughs in battery research were launched in the U.S., but were fully developed and advanced by companies in Asia. Martin says he’s relieved that the U.S. government is finally starting to invest more in battery research.
“I’ve heard people say, right now, we’re spending billions of dollars to import oil. Well, the last thing we want to do in the 21st and 22nd century is spend billions of dollars importing batteries,” Martin said.