This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 12, 2009

DOE Awards $377 Million to 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers

DOE delivered $377 million last week to 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). The centers are located at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation, and DOE plans to provide funding for each of them for the next five years. Of the total awarded, $277 million comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, providing up-front funding to 16 of the EFRCs for the full five years. The remaining $100 million comes from DOE annual appropriations and provides the first-year funding for the other 36 EFRCs.

EFRC researchers will take advantage of new capabilities in nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, neutron scattering sources, supercomputing, and other advanced instrumentation, much of it developed with DOE Office of Science support over the past decade. Their goal is to lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, biofuels, transportation, energy efficiency, electricity storage and transmission, and other energy technologies. The 46 EFRCs were selected in a rigorous merit review process by outside scientific experts. In total, the EFRC initiative represents a planned DOE commitment of $777 million over five years.

Of the 16 EFRCs funded for the full five years, 15 relate directly to energy efficiency or renewable energy, and the majority of those relate directly to solar energy. One EFRC will try to mimic photosynthesis to produce hydrogen or other fuels from sunlight, while others will try to enhance the conversion of solar energy to electricity or other fuels using hybrid inorganic-organic materials; nanometer-sized thin films; novel, self-assembled polymer materials; new classes of materials under conditions far from equilibrium; nanostructures built from synthetic molecular catalysts and light absorbers; and other unique materials. Some of these efforts may also yield breakthroughs in solid-state lighting, converting heat into electricity, and storing electricity and hydrogen. Three of the EFRCs will also tackle the conversion of biomass into chemicals and fuels by studying the physical structure of polymers in plant cells walls, examining the interactions between catalysts and plant cell walls, and employing novel catalysts. In addition, one EFRC will study reactions at the electrodes of fuel cells, batteries, and solar cells. See the DOE press release and the full list of EFRCs (PDF 38 KB). Download Adobe Reader.