The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory is partnering with the state of Kentucky and two universities there to set up a national manufacturing research and development center to help cultivate a U.S. infrastructure for lithium-ion batteries.

“Advanced batteries will play a significant role in the future energy and economic security of the United States,” says Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear. “At this time, however, nearly all large-scale advanced battery production is in Asia, with the United States having only limited manufacturing capabilities.

“To address this situation, the United States must quickly develop improved advanced battery technologies and significantly ramp up domestic production capabilities in order to become the hands-down global leader of these technologies.”

The R&D center, which will be supported by the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville, will be chartered with facilitating collaboration between public and private researchers, developing advanced technology to reduce battery production costs and accelerating the commercialization of technologies developed at federal and university laboratories.

The initial focus will be on Li-ion battery manufacturing R&D, says Mark Peters, deputy associate laboratory director of Energy Sciences & Engineering at Argonne. “In the long-term, the center would help in the development of technologies that would enable a significant increase in energy densities, including lithium-air and zinc-air systems for vehicle applications and advanced batteries for cost-efficient and long-life grid power storage applications.”

Ford Motor Co. and the recently formed National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacturers are among those applauding the R&D effort.

Both Kentucky and Argonne will pursue funding for the operation.