Lab Name: Argonne National Laboratory

Location: Illinois, USA.

Researcher: Dr. Linda Gaines


Dr. Linda Gaines
Dr. Linda Gaines

Dr. Linda Gaines is a Transportation Systems Analyst at Argonne National Laboratory. Along with her colleagues in the Energy Systems Analysis group, Dr. Gaines looks at the “big picture” in transportation, assessing potential impacts from introduction of improved vehicle technologies. Her current work ranges from reducing vehicle idling to evaluating technologies for recycling lithium-ion batteries.

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What is your academic background?

I hold a PhD in physics from Columbia University and a BA in Chemistry and Physics from Harvard. My graduate studies involved the measurement of hyperfine spectra of molecules that might be found in the interstellar medium. After my PhD I needed a job, and a chart on the back of a professor’s door caught my eye – it showed the materials flows from mining to the automotive industry. Long story short, I was funded to do some research into the environmental impacts of coal and nuclear power, and have been a systems analyst ever since.

What would you describe as your main focus, and that of your group?

My primary interest is problem solving, applied to the efficient use of resources, most recently with a focus on ways to reduce our dependence on petroleum.

Beyond physical realities, consumer behaviour, economic conditions, and market forces interact on many levels to influence the acceptance of new technologies and their potential impacts on energy efficiency and the environment. Our analysis team includes a diverse group of engineers, technology analysts, economists, policy analysts, and planners to assess programs and develop tools for the public to use in calculating potential energy, resource, and emissions savings from implementation of new fuels and technologies. The group developed the GREET (Greenhouse Gases, Regulated Emissions, and Energy use in Transportation) model; its goal is to provide a common, transparent platform for life-cycle analysis of vehicle and fuel technologies. 

Lab Profile: Dr. Linda Gaines
Lab Profile: Dr. Linda Gaines

You mention a focus on vehicle idling – can you explain what it is?

When a vehicle's engine is on but the vehicle is not in motion, it is idling. Sitting at traffic lights, leaving the truck running while making a delivery, or a locomotive overnight in its yard… all of these reduce a vehicle’s fuel economy, cost money, and create emissions. While the impact of an individual idling episode may be minor, we estimate that idling from on-road vehicles wastes about 6 billion gallons of fuel every year. In addition, idling emissions contribute to smog and climate change.

What research has your group undertaken in this area?

Our initial analysis showed that long-haul trucks idled overnight to keep the sleeping driver comfortable, using about 1 billion gallons annually while stationary. In response, Argonne organized the National Idling Reduction Planning Conference in 2004, with the cooperation of several government agencies and over 200 participants. Further analysis showed that idling of all truck classes during the workday accounted for an even larger quantity of wasted fuel. As the analysis extended to other modes and then to passenger cars, it became clear that the total fuel wasted was at least 6 billion gallons annually.

Other research showed that idling a car for more than 10 seconds uses more fuel and produces more GHG emissions than does stopping and restarting. Recent work demonstrated the need to put emission controls on truck idling reduction equipment to bring emissions below the low levels mandated for modern trucks. The Clean Cities Program disseminates our results and outreach materials, but it’s a continuing effort to overcome long-standing bad habits and misinformation.

Lab Profile: Dr. Linda Gaines

Your work on battery recycling has a strong materials lean – can you tell us more about that?

Our focus has been on materials from the beginning. The growing market for automotive batteries led to a concern about lithium availability, so we began by projecting potential demand. Another concern was what would happen to these batteries at the end of their useful lives. Even if they find a second use, eventually they will require disposal. The ideal situation would be to find ways to produce valuable products from these spent batteries.

We have been examining existing and proposed battery recycling processes to determine the optimal, in terms of raw materials and energy saved, emissions reduced, and economics. We’ve examined lead-acid batteries, which have an established and very successful recycling infrastructure, but have a much simpler design incorporating fewer materials and variations of design, to see what lessons can be learned.

Through our analysis, we hope to inform policymakers, help set R&D goals and, offer practical solutions to some of the technical and institutional challenges.

The chemistry/ies and designs of future batteries aren’t yet known, but they will be based on performance rather than recyclability. So, optimizing recycling processes is a daunting problem.  And mixing of battery types at end-of-life is posing an immediate difficulty. But if there is a broad commitment from industry and government, I’m confident these problems can be solved.

You are on the Editorial Board of Sustainable Materials and Technologies – what are your hopes for that journal?

Nowhere is research more cross-disciplinary than on the question of sustainability. So we’re hoping that this journal offers a way to bring diverse researchers together... to provide a forum for scientists and engineers working in materials development and system design to present their work and discuss how they can help each other.  In our first year of publication, we've had articles on energy storage, materials made from natural feedstocks, magnets and motors, recycling, manufacturing processes, and power generation.  We're off to a great start and are excited to see where year 2 takes us!

Team members

Battery Recycling and LCA: Jennifer Dunn, Jarod Kelly, Kevin Gallagher, Paul Nelson

Idling Reduction: Patricia Weikersheimer, Andrew Burnham, Terry Levinson (Allegheny Science and Technology), Mike Laughlin (Energetics)

Selected publications

"Material and Energy Flows in the Production of Cathode and Anode Materials for Lithium Ion Batteries," Argonne National Laboratory, report no. ANL/ESD-14/10 Rev (2015).

"The significance of Li-ion batteries in electric vehicle life-cycle energy and emissions and recycling's role in its reduction," Energy & Environmental Science 8, 158-168 (2015).

"The future of automotive lithium-ion battery recycling: charting a sustainable course," Sustainable Materials and Technologies 1-2: 2-7 (2014).

"Impact of recycling on cradle-to-gate energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of automotive lithium-ion batteries," Environmental Science & Technology 46(22): 12704-12710 (2012).

Emissions from Idling Heavy-Duty Trucks and Idling-Reduction Equipment, 2015 paper for January 2016 meeting of the Transportation Research Board

Which is Greener: Idle, or Stop and Restart? Comparing Fuel Use and Emissions for Short Passenger-Car Stopspaper for January 2013 meeting of the Transportation Research Board

Further information