DOE dishes out $377 million for new Energy Frontier Research Centers

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The delivery of $377 million in combined Recovery Act and U.S. Department of Energy funding for a network of new multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) first announced in April has taken place. The 46 centers, many of which will focus on solar photovoltaic-related materials and other research, are located at universities, national labs, nonprofit organizations, and private firms in 22 states (including seven in California) and the District of Columbia. 

Of the $377 million awarded to the EFRCs, $277 million comes from funding made available through the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act, with the other $100 million made from DOE’s FY2009 budget.

The centers are being funded at $2 million to $5 million per year each for a planned initial five-year period. In total, the EFRC initiative represents a planned DOE commitment of $777 million over five years.

Here are some of the EFRCs with a solar bent funded by the Recovery Act portion of the program:

  • Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ): $14 million for five years to adapt the fundamental principles of natural photosynthesis to the manmade production of hydrogen or other fuels from sunlight.
  • University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ): $15 million for five years to enhance the conversion of solar energy to electricity using hybrid inorganic-organic materials.
  • University of California, Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA): $19 million for five years to discover and develop materials that control the interactions between light, electricity, and heat at the nanoscale for improved solar energy conversion, solid-state lighting, and conversion of heat into electricity.
  • Columbia University (New York, NY): $16 million for five years to develop the enabling science needed to realize breakthroughs in the efficient conversion of sunlight into electricity in nanometer-sized thin films.
  • Cornell University (Ithaca, NY): $17.5 million for five years to understand and control the nature, structure, and dynamics of reactions at electrodes in fuel cells, batteries, solar photovoltaics, and catalysts.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA): $19 million for five years to understand the transport of charge carriers in synthetic disordered systems, which hold promise as new materials for conversion of solar energy to electricity and electrical energy storage.
  • University of Massachusetts (Amherst, MA): $16 million for five years to use novel, self-assembled polymer materials in systems for the conversion of sunlight into electricity.
  • University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI): $19.5 million for five years to study complex material structures on the nanoscale to identify key features for their potential use as materials to convert solar energy and heat to electricity.
  • University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, NC): $17.5 million for five years to synthesize new molecular catalysts and light absorbers and integrate them into nanoscale architectures for improved generation of fuels and electricity from sunlight.
  • Northwestern University (Evanston, IL): $19 million for five years to synthesize, characterize, and understand new classes of materials under conditions far from equilibrium relevant to solar energy conversion, storage of electricity and hydrogen, and catalysis.
  • University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA): $12.5 million for five years to simultaneously explore the light-absorbing and light-emitting properties of hybrid inorganic-organic materials for solar energy conversion and solid state lighting.
  • University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX): $15 million for five years to pursue fundamental research on charge transfer processes that underpin the function of highly promising molecular materials for photovoltaic and electrical energy storage applications.

“Meeting the challenge to reduce our dependence on imported oil and curtail greenhouse gas emissions will require significant scientific advances,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu, in making the announcement. “These centers will mobilize the enormous talents and skills of our nation’s scientific workforce in pursuit of the breakthroughs that are essential to expand the use of clean and renewable energy.”

A complete list of the 46 EFRCs, their lead institutions, funding levels and objectives, and other information can be found on DOE’s  Basic Energy Sciences’ Energy Frontier Research Centers page.

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