Sunlight Getty

DOE to Provide US$100 Million for Solar Fuels Research

Feb. 27, 2020
Funding will support the establishment of one large or possibly two smaller DOE Energy Innovation Hubs.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced a plan to provide up to US$100 million over five years for research on artificial photosynthesis for the production of fuels from sunlight. The funding will support the establishment of one large or possibly two smaller DOE Energy Innovation Hubs — integrated multidisciplinary, multi-institutional research teams aimed at accelerating the fundamental scientific breakthroughs needed to enable solar fuel production.

Plants use photosynthesis to convert energy from the sun into energy-rich chemical fuels using water and carbon dioxide (CO2). The goal of the research is to develop an artificial photosynthesis system that, like natural photosynthesis, would generate usable fuels directly from sunlight, CO2, and water. However, significant scientific barriers remain to the development of such a system, requiring new discoveries and fundamental breakthroughs.

The DOE’s planned investment in the Fuels from Sunlight Hub program represents a continuing large-scale commitment of U.S. scientific and technological resources to this highly competitive and promising area of investigation.

"Sunlight is our most basic energy source and the ability to generate fuels directly from sunlight has the potential to transform our energy economy and vastly enhance U.S. energy security," said Undersecretary for Science Paul Dabbar. "This effort will ensure that American scientists continue to lead in the highly challenging but extremely promising area of artificial photosynthesis research."

Proposed research is expected to build on the capabilities and accomplishments developed to date by the solar fuels research community, including work by the DOE Office of Science-supported Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis, Energy Frontier Research Centers, and core research programs. Applications are asked to focus on research priorities identified by the Roundtable on Liquid Solar Fuels held in August 2019 by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences within the DOE’s Office of Science.

Applications are expected to take the form of multi-institutional proposals submitted by a single lead institution. Eligible lead and partner institutions include universities, nonprofits, DOE national laboratories, and other federal laboratories and agencies. Total planned funding will be up to US$100 million for awards beginning in fiscal year 2020 and up to five years in duration, with out-year funding contingent on congressional appropriations. Selections will be made based on peer review and may result in the establishment of one or two DOE Energy Innovation Hubs, depending on the scope of the selected proposals.

The full funding opportunity announcement is available here.

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