Mitsubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle was rated highest in latest environmental rankings provided by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. See story below. Credit: Mitsubishi.

Here is what we are hearing:

DOE to launch new Energy Innovation Hub focused on advanced batteries and energy storage

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced plans to launch a new Energy Innovation Hub for advanced research on batteries and energy storage with an investment of up to $120 million over five years. The hub, which will be funded at up to $20 million in fiscal year 2012, will focus on accelerating research and development of electrochemical energy storage for transportation and the electric grid. Letters of Intent to apply are due on March 1, 2012 with full applications due on May 31, 2012. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form partnerships when submitting their proposals. The award selection is expected this summer.

Commission clears acquisition of joint control of Maxam by Advent, investors

The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of joint control of the Spanish company MaxamCorp Holding S.L. by US-based Advent International Corp. and approximately 110 individuals including Maxam’s current managers, technical experts, other employees and co-investors. The Commission examined the vertical links created by the proposed transaction and concluded that the merged entity would continue to face sufficient competition. Advent manages a number of investment funds. It also controls H.C. Starck GmbH, which is active mainly in refractory metals and advanced ceramics, and OXEA S.a.r.l., which primarily produces chemicals.

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Nanocerox redesigns new analytical lab (pdf)

Nanocerox recently invested in a new analytical lab at its corporate headquarters located in Ann Arbor, Mich. “Nanocerox continues to invest internally in our infrastructure to ensure the quality of our nanopowders,” says Todd Stefanik, vice president of technology. “As a result of our recent construction of a cleanroom facility for processing nanopowders into transparent ceramic parts, we realized significant improvements in the optical quality of optical parts produced at Nanocerox. With this redesign of our analytical laboratories, we allow ourselves to measure ceramic powder, slurry and transparent part characteristics to ensure consistent production of high optical quality laser, window and scintillator components.”

Webcast of Ceradyne Inc. presentation at Cowen and Company’s 33rd Annual Aerospace/Defense Conference available

Ceradyne CEO Joel P. Moskowitz spoke at Cowen and Company’s 33rd Annual Aerospace/Defense Conference in New York on Feb. 8, 2012. He addressed the company’s business fundamentals and growth strategies. Ceradyne develops, manufactures, and markets advanced technical ceramic products and components for defense, industrial, automotive/diesel, and commercial applications. In many high performance applications, products made of advanced technical ceramics meet specifications that similar products made of metals, plastics or traditional ceramics cannot achieve.

U.S. Silica goes public after 111 years

Shares of U.S. Silica Holdings Inc. started trading Feb. 1, 2012, as the mining firm with roots going back more than a century raised $200 million in its initial public offering. The producer of silica used in hydraulic fracturing and solar panels was acquired in 2008 by affiliates of Golden Gate Private Equity Inc. It ranks as the second-largest producer in the United States after Unimin, a unit of Belgium-based Sibelco Group. The company originated in West Virginia as a supplier of raw material for glass used in the manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh, before it moved to its current headquarters in Frederick, Md. The company’s growth prospects are tied partially to the rise in domestic shale oil and gas production, which uses sand to break up rock underground to free-up fossil fuel in the hydraulic fracturing process, also known as fracking.

Electric car tops out greenest vehicle list

For the first time in the 12-year history of the Greenest Vehicle List, an electric vehicle has topped the list, based on the 14th annual comprehensive environmental rankings provided by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. The Mitsubishi i-MIEV battery electric vehicle claimed the top spot from the Honda Civic Natural Gas, which, up until this year, had held the top spot for 8 years running. The i-MIEV scored a high score of 58, the highest Green Score ever awarded since the ACEEE rankings were started back in 1998. The Mitsubishi i-MIEV managed a combined city and highway fuel economy of 112 miles per gallon equivalent.