In October 2014, we introduced “Sprints” to accelerate research and meet our goal of developing two battery prototypes, one for transportation and the other for the grid. Each Sprint begins with the identification of a critical scientific question for prototype development that must be answered within a few month timeframe, and the formation of the right team of scientists and engineers to answer the question. Sprint teams are made up of specialists from multiple JCESR institutions spanning diverse technical expertise. This arrangement has resulted in increased interaction across organizations.
As one of many examples, a successful Sprint identified promising organic molecules that could be used for the fluid anode in flow batteries designed for the electric grid. Sprint team members from three universities (MIT, University of Michigan, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and two national laboratories (Argonne and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory) brought multiple specialties to the table, including organic synthesis, electrochemical characterization of battery materials, and flow cell characterization.
Sprints increase the focus of the research and make the large JCESR group feel smaller to the scientists involved because they are part of a highly interactive, focused team. Sprint leaders, many of them early career researchers, are highly motivated to be successful in what is often the first team they have had the opportunity to lead.