DOE Awards $100 Million for Energy Frontier Research Centers

Originally published on ENERGY.GOV

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette announced $100 million in funding for 10 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a twenty-first-century energy economy and strengthen U.S. economic leadership and energy security.

“The EFRC program has been one of our most innovative and successful basic science research efforts, driving progress in a wide range of important scientific fields,” said Secretary Brouillette.  “Through these research centers, the Department is mobilizing America’s scientific workforce to lay the foundation for the nation’s future energy innovation, security, and prosperity.”

In recognition of the importance of teams in energy research, the EFRC program brings together researchers from multiple disciplines and institutions—including universities, national laboratories, industry, and nonprofit organizations—and combines them into synergistic, highly productive teams.

“At a time when the science and technology challenges we face are increasingly multidisciplinary in nature, the EFRCs have proved an exemplary vehicle for forging strong multidisciplinary teams,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “Since their inception in 2009, the EFRCs have been an enormous force for both discovery and innovation.”

The current cohort of EFRCs, selected by competitive peer review, include six new centers and renewals of two existing ones, all to be funded for up to four years. Based on favorable peer review evaluations, an additional two existing centers were awarded two-year extensions to support the completion of valuable research in progress.

These centers will help to accelerate scientific discovery and understanding in energy-relevant fields: materials and chemistry for microelectronics and quantum information science; chemical upcycling of polymers; and environmental management.

The knowledge generated by these EFRCs will lay the scientific groundwork for future advances in electronics, computing, and communication; innovations for quantum information sciences; production of chemicals, fuels and materials from discarded plastics; and nuclear waste remediation. More broadly, the EFRC program is generating foundational scientific knowledge in diverse fields, including advanced solar energy, energy generation and storage, and nuclear energy.

Since 2009, the EFRCs have produced more than 12,600 peer-reviewed scientific publications and generated hundreds of inventions at various stages of the patent process, fostering a wide range of new technologies that have benefitted multiple private sector companies, both large and small.

The average annual award for each of the four-year centers is approximately $3 million, with lower levels of funding provided for the two-year extensions. Total planned funding for the 10 centers will be $100 million over four years, with out-year funding contingent on Congressional appropriations.

More information about the EFRC program, including a list of the current EFRC awards and descriptions of ongoing centers, can be found HERE.

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As world demand for energy rapidly expands, transforming the way energy is collected, stored, and used has become a defining challenge of the 21st century. At its heart, this challenge is a scientific one, inspiring the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) to establish the Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) program in 2009. The EFRCs represent a unique approach, bringing together creative, multi-disciplinary scientific teams to tackle the toughest scientific challenges preventing advances in energy technologies.  These centers take full advantage of powerful new tools for characterizing, understanding, modeling, and manipulating matter from atomic to macroscopic length scales. They also train the next-generation scientific workforce by attracting talented students and postdoctoral researchers interested in energy science.

The US Department of Energy (DOE)

In 2009 five-year awards were made to 46 EFRCs.  An open re-competition of the program in 2014 resulted in four-year awards to 32 centers, 22 of which were renewals of existing EFRCs and 10 of which were new EFRCs. In 2016, DOE added 4 new four-year centers to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to support the Department’s environmental management and nuclear cleanup mission.  An open re-competition in 2018 resulted in 42 awards: 11 two-year extensions of existing EFRCs, 9 four-year renewals of existing EFRCs, and 22 four-year awards for new EFRCs.  Since the program’s inception, there have been 82 EFRCs, of which 46 are currently active.  The active centers can be found on the Centers page, while the previously funded centers can be found on the History page.

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