US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a proposed $100 million in FY2014 funding for Energy Frontier Research Centers; research supported by this initiative will enable fundamental advances in energy production and use.
The Department of Energy (DOE) currently funds 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), which were selected for five-year funding in 2009. (Earlier post.) With support for those centers set to expire in July 2014, DOE has announced a “re-competition” for a second round of funding (DE-FOA-0001010).
The competition will be open to proposals both from existing EFRCs seeking renewal of support and from institutions seeking to establish new EFRCs under the program. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete and are encouraged to form multi-disciplinary research teams that may include partnerships with other institutions. Selection will be based on a peer review process.
Applications will be required to address both use-inspired priority research directions identified by the series of “Basic Research Needs” reports and scientific grand challenges identified in the report Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination. In addition, as appropriate, applicants are encouraged to consider the incorporation of research approaches outlined in the following two reports: 1) Computational Materials Science and Chemistry: Accelerating Discovery and Innovation through Simulation-Based Engineering and Science; and 2) From Quanta to the Continuum: Opportunities for Mesoscale Science.
The Directing Matter and Energy report posed five “grand challenges”:
How do we control material processes at the level of electrons?
How do we design and perfect atom- and energy-efficient synthesis of revolutionary new forms of matter with tailored properties?
How do remarkable properties of matter emerge from complex correlations of the atomic or electronic constituents and how can we control these properties?
How can we master energy and information on the nanoscale to create new technologies with capabilities rivaling those of living things?
How do we characterize and control matter away—especially very far away—from equilibrium?
The report Computational Materials Science and Chemistry, which focused on the use of predictive theory, modeling and simulation in materials science and chemistry to accelerate the development of new materials and processes for energy applications, laid out five scientific challenges to accelerate discovery and innovation:
Integration of synthesis, processing, characterization, theory and simulation and modeling;
Achieving/strengthening predictive capability in foundational challenge areas;
Developing validated computational approaches that span vast differences in time and length scales;
Experimental validation and quantification of uncertainty in simulation and modeling; and
Robust and sustainable computational infrastructure, including software and applications.
From Quanta to the Continuum examined the scientific opportunities encompassed in the mesoscale, where the functionality that is critical to macroscopic behavior begins to manifest itself. The report identified six mesoscale challenges:
Mastering defect mesostructure and its evolution;
Regulating coupled reactions and pathway-dependent chemical processes;
Optimizing transport and response properties by design and control of mesoscale structure;
Elucidating non-equilibrium and many-body physics of electrons;
Harnessing fluctuations, dynamics and degradation for control of metastable mesoscale systems; and
Directing assembly of hierarchical functional materials.
Taken together, these reports form a broad and comprehensive view of the fundamental research, tools, and approaches that are needed to address scientific barriers to create new and improved energy technologies, develop future energy sources, improve energy efficiency, and reduce environmental impacts of energy production and use.—DE-FOA-0001010
The centers selected from the current competition will help lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, biofuels, transportation, energy efficiency, electricity storage and transmission, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear energy.
Awards are expected to range from $2 million to $4 million per year per center for each of five fiscal years. Total funding for the new investment, pending Congressional appropriations, is expected to be about $100 million per year for the five-year awards.
Mandatory Letters of Intent to apply are due on 13 November 2013, with full applications due on 9 January 2014. Award selection is expected by June 2014.
Since their establishment by the Department’s Office of Science, the EFRCs have produced thousands of peer-reviewed scientific publications and hundreds of inventions at various stages of the patent process. EFRC research has also benefited a number of large and small firms, including start-up companies, DOE said.