NSF to award up to $13M for fundamental work on sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels
The US National Science Foundation (NSF) has issued a grants opportunity notice (PD-14-7644) for up to about $13 million in awards to fundamental research and education that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and transportation fuels. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources.
The duration of unsolicited awards is typically three years. The average annual award size for the program is $100,000. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review. Current interest areas in sustainable energy technologies are as follows:
Biomass Conversion, Biofuels & Bioenergy. Photosynthetic processes used by plants or algae use sunlight to convert atmospheric CO2 to energy-rich metabolites (carbohydrates, lipids, or hydrocarbons) which can be processed into transportation fuels. Fundamental research on innovative approaches for the intensification of biofuel and bioenergy processes is an emphasis area of this program.
Specific areas of interest include: biological, thermochemical, or thermocatalytic conversion of lignocellulosic biomass to biofuels beyond cellulosic ethanol; microbial fuel cells for direct production of electricity from renewable carbon sources; process-based, scalable approaches for the biological or bio-mimetic generation of electricity directly from sunlight; hydrogen production from autotrophic and heterotrophic microorganisms; hydrocarbons and lipids from autotrophic or heterotrophic microorganisms.
Photovoltaic Solar Energy. Solar photovoltaic (PV) devices harvest and convert sunlight directly to electricity. Fundamental research on innovative processes for the fabrication and theory-based characterization of future PV devices is an emphasis area of this program.
Specific areas of interest include: nano-enabled PV devices containing nanostructured semiconductors, plasmonic materials, photonic structures, or conducting polymers; earth-abundant and environmentally benign materials for photovoltaic devices; photocatalytic or photoelectrochemical processe for the splitting of water into H2 gas, or for the reduction of CO2 to liquid or gaseous fuels.
The generation of thermal energy by solar radiation is not an area supported by this program, but will be considered by the Thermal Transport Processes program within CBET (Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, and Transport Systems).
Wind Energy. Fundamental engineering research, supported by modeling and simulation studies, that leads to new processes to efficiently harness wind energy for the production of electrical power is an interest area of this program. Research that focuses on materials science issues associated with wind energy systems will not be considered by this program. Projects involving fluid mechanics components as part of a systems approach to wind energy should be submitted to this program; projects focused on new computational fluid mechanics modeling should be submitted to the Fluid Dynamics program.
Advanced Batteries for Transportation. The focus is on high-energy density and high-power density batteries suitable for transportation applications. Advanced systems such as lithium-air, sodium-ion, as well as lithium-ion with new cathode chemistries are appropriate. Work on commercially available systems such as lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride will not be considered by this program.
Fuel-cell projects previously submitted to this program should be directed to other CBET programs, depending on emphasis: electrocatalysis (Catalysis and Biocatalysis); membranes (Separations and Bioseparations); systems (Process and Reaction Engineering).
Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas can be considered. However, prior to submission, NSF recommends that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.