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Thursday, May 26, 2022

Review: Powerhouse

 Powerhouse is Steve LeVine's book about the race to create NMC 2.0 batteries. It revolves around Argonne National Laboratories, Envia Energy Systems, and  a smattering of Chinese and Korean representatives. The book doesn't try to give a detailed description of the battery technology and the actual development of the technology but instead tries to describe the key personalities and scientists involved. This approach is kinda sucky, because the politics behind the science is pretty ugly.

There's lots of description about talent poaching, as well as the not-quite-Theranos antics of Envia's CEO and CTO, as well as the jockeying for position amongst the Argonne scientists for promotions and plum positions. It was also interesting that the patent licensing actions of Argonne National Labs resulted in bonuses for the scientists involved. The book also describes all the effort into getting funding for a "Battery Hub" an industry + academia partnership. But the amounts of money involved was paltry, something that a company like Google or Apple could fund out of pocket change, reminding us how little money we spend on basic research, and how much of a bargain it is.

Unfortunately, it looks like NMC 2.0 never panned out.

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