NSF funding opportunity: Energy for Sustainability

Proposal window: October 1, 2017 – October 20, 2017
For more information: https://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=505339

The Energy for Sustainability program is part of the Chemical Process Systems cluster, which includes also 1) Catalysis; 2) Process Separations; and 3) Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics.

The goal of the Energy for Sustainability program is to support fundamental engineering research that will enable innovative processes for the sustainable production of electricity and fuels, and for energy storage. Processes for sustainable energy production must be environmentally benign, reduce greenhouse gas production, and utilize renewable resources. Research projects that stress molecular level understanding of phenomena that directly impacts key barriers to improved system level performance (e.g. energy efficiency, product yield, process intensification) are encouraged. Proposed research should be inspired by the need for economic and impactful conversion processes. All proposals should include in the project description, how the proposed work, if successful, will improve process realization and economic feasibility and compare the proposed work against current state-of-the-art. Highly integrated multidisciplinary projects are encouraged.

Current topics of interest are the following:

Electrochemical Energy Systems:

Radically new battery systems or breakthroughs based on existing systems can move the U.S. more rapidly toward a more sustainable transportation future. The focus is on high-energy density and high-power density batteries suitable for transportation and renewable energy storage applications. Advanced systems such as lithium-air, sodium-ion, as well as lithium-ion electrochemical energy storage are appropriate. Work on commercially available systems such as lead-acid and nickel-metal hydride batteries will not be considered by this program.

Advanced fuel cell systems with advanced components for propulsion for transportation are considered. Novel systems with non-commercial components are appropriate; emphasis is still placed on fundamental understanding of the key barriers to improved system level performance. Flow batteries for energy storage applications are appropriate. Similarly emphasis should be placed on fundamental understanding of the reaction and transport phenomena that impacts system performance. Photocatalytic or photoelectrochemical processes for the splitting of water into H2 gas, or for the reduction of CO2 to liquid or gaseous fuels are appropriate. Emphasis should be placed on fundamental molecular level understanding of key barriers that impact system level performance.

Organic Photovoltaics:

Low-Cost, environmentally benign photovoltaic (PV) solar electricity projects are considered. The program emphasis is for fundamental research on innovative processes for the fabrication and theory-based characterization of future organic PV devices (OPVs). Devices of interest include polymer and small molecule organic photovoltaics or dye sensitized photovoltaics for electricity generation.

Referrals to other programs within NSF:

  • Proposals that focus on thermal management of energy storage devices and systems should be submitted to the Thermal Transport Processes Program (CBET 1406).
  • Proposals that focus on thermal catalytic or thermal noncatalytic biomass conversion and advanced biofuels from lignocellulosic biomass should be directed to the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics (PRM) (CBET 1403)
  • Proposals related to the combustion of biomass, gasification, or the production of synthesis gas (syngas) should be sent to Combustion and Fire Systems (CBET 1407).
  • Proposals that focus on the fundamentals of catalysis for biomass conversion should be submitted to Catalysis (CBET 1401).
  • Proposals that focus on the biological production of fuels or electricity (e.g. biocatalysis, metabolic engineering, synthetic biology in the context of bioenergy, biological fermentations) should be directed to the Cellular and Biochemical Engineering program (CBET 1491).
  • Proposals that focus on improving device and system performance of primarily inorganic and hybrid PV technologies may be considered in other ENG programs including the Division of Electrical, Communications, and Cyber Systems. PV materials proposals that focus on the material science may be considered in the Division of Materials Research of the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences.
  • Proposals that focus on the generation of thermal energy by solar radiation may be considered by Thermal Transport Processes (CBET 1406).

The duration of unsolicited awards is typically one to three years.  The typical award size for the program is $100,000 per year. Collaborative proposals that include a strong multi-disciplinary component are typically $150,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.

Carol Read
National Science Foundation
Phone: (703) 292-2418

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Effort meant to inform younger generations about energy and the environment sees sentences reworked and pie charts eliminated.

Energy-Water Nexus: The Water Sector’s Energy Use

Download the document.

Water and energy are resources that are reciprocally and mutually linked, because meeting energy needs requires water, often in large quantities, for mining, fuel production, hydropower, and power plant cooling, and energy is needed for pumping, treatment, and distribution of water and for collection, treatment, and discharge of wastewater. This interrelationship is often referred to as the energy-water nexus, or the water-energy nexus. There is growing recognition that “saving water saves energy.” Energy efficiency initiatives offer opportunities for delivering significant water savings, and likewise, water efficiency initiatives offer opportunities for delivering significant energy savings. In addition, saving water also reduces carbon emissions by saving energy otherwise gene rated to move and treat water.

This report provides background on energy for facilities that treat and deliver water to end users and also dispose of and discharge wastewater. Energy use for water is a function of many variables, including water source (surface water pumping typically requires less energy than groundwater pumping), treatment (high ambient quality raw water requires less treatment than brackish or seawater), intended end-use, distribution (water pumped long distances requires more energy), amount of water loss in the system through leakage and evaporation, and level of wastewater treatment (stringency of water quality regulations to meet discharge standards). Likewise, the intensity of energy use of water, which is the relative amount of energy needed for a task such as pumping water, varies depending on characteristics such as topography (affecting groundwater recharge), climate, seasonal temperature, and rainfall. Most of the energy used for water-related purposes is in the form of electricity. Water-related energy is estimated to account for about 4% of the nation’s electricity generation, but many data gaps exist. Also, regional differences can be significant. In California, for example, as much as 19% of the state’s electricity consumption is for pumping, treating, collecting, and discharging water and wastewater.

Trump’s energy plan doesn’t mention solar, an industry that just added 51,000 jobs

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

The White House website may not even mention it as part of Trump’s “America First Energy Plan” — but the U.S. solar industry continues to post dramatic job growth numbers.

According to a new annual report by the nonprofit Solar Foundation, more than 51,000 solar industry jobs were added in 2016, a 24.5 percent increase over 2015. Overall, the foundation finds, some 260,000 Americans now work in the solar industry.

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Climate change is likely to increase U.S. electricity costs over the next century by billions of dollars more than economists previously forecast, according to a new study involving a University of Michigan researcher.

Data busts the myth of cheap fossil fuels

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Carbon Tracker Initiative has released a study that might surprise the general public. The global study, “End of the Load for Coal and Gas?” (PDF), found renewable energy is now more cost-effective than fossil fuels. These data conflict with conventional wisdom that coal and gas are the cheapest fuels available.

Sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants have fallen faster than coal generation

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions produced in the generation of electricity at power plants in the United States declined by 73% from 2006 to 2015, a much larger reduction than the 32% decrease in coal-fired electricity generation over that period. From 2014 to 2015, the most recent year with complete power plant emissions data, SO2 emissions fell 26%—the largest annual drop in percentage terms in the previous decade. Nearly all electricity-related SO2 emissions are associated with coal-fired generation.