Funding Opportunity: DOE Office of Science Releases Open Funding Call for Basic Research

The Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Science recently released its fiscal year (FY) 2021 open funding call for basic research.  The FY 2021 Continuation of Solicitation for the Office of Science Financial Assistance Program is an annual, open solicitation that funds grant applications in all six major Office of Science programs, including Advanced Scientific Computing Research, Basic Energy Sciences, Biological and Environmental Research, Fusion Energy Sciences, High Energy Physics, Nuclear Physics, and two cross-cutting technology areas, including Isotope Research and Development (R&D) and Production and Accelerator R&D and Production.  This funding solicitations supplements and advances high priority or new areas of research that are not directly addressed through more targeted funding opportunities.

In FY 2021, DOE will have approximately $250 million for new, renewal, or supplemental grants and cooperative agreements.  DOE makes an average of 300 new awards through this funding call and they typically range from $750,000 to $3 million a year over three years.  Before applying for this funding solicitation, Lewis-Burke highly recommends reaching out to the relevant program manager to discuss research priorities and opportunities.  Guidance from program managers significantly increases the rate of success of new applications.

New or expanded areas of research in FY 2021 reflect current Office of Science cross-cutting priorities, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence and machine learning,
  • quantum information science,
  • rare earth and separations science,
  • revolutionizing polymer upcycling,
  • strategic accelerator technology initiative, and the
  • DOE isotope initiative.

In April 2020, the Office of Science went through a reorganization and created two new offices—the Office of Accelerator R&D and Production and the Office of Isotope R&D and Production.  The new accelerator office helps coordinate ongoing accelerator science and technology R&D investments across the Offices of Science, as well fund high risk, high-reward advances in accelerator science and technology, including novel particle sources, advanced beam dynamics, new acceleration techniques, and next generation materials that would benefit multiple science missions.  The new isotope program has been transferred out of the Office of Nuclear Physics and has a broader scope to support a wider range of DOE missions.  This also includes new investments in isotope production, processing, and purification.

Below are new or expanded areas of research identified in the funding solicitation:

  • Applied mathematics: additional emphasis on foundational research in Scientific Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence to enable greater adaptivity, automation, and predictive capabilities in scientific computing;
  • Computer science: additional emphasis on machine learning and Artificial Intelligence for extreme scale as well as network science and the science Internet of Things;
  • Research and evaluate prototypes: New topic focused on theoretical methods and software tools to
    • assess the performance of real-world quantum processors,
    • improve device-specific optimization of individual operations ranging from “state-preparation and measurement through gate implementation and compilation,” and
    • “suppress noise, mitigate crosstalk, control errors, and maintain optimally high fidelity operations in the absence of formal error correction”.
  • Materials chemistry: New or expanded topics include
    • fundamental aspects of chemical synthesis, including covalent and non-covalent assembly of materials,
    • chemical upcycling of polymers,
    • fundamental investigations of rare earth compounds and other critical materials,
    • discovery of materials that advance the development of quantum information systems, and
    • new approaches to materials discovery using data-driven science such as Artificial Intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML).
  • Synthesis and processing science:  Expanded focus on coupling physical synthesis/processing techniques with computational/theory approaches, including AI/ML for data-driven science, and real-time diagnostic tools and characterization techniques to provide information on the dynamic progression of structure and composition, and enable atomic level control during synthesis.
  • Experimental condensed matter physics: New focus on phenomena associated with quantum phononic and magnonic transport.
  • Theoretical condensed matter physics: Expanded focus on quantum materials and out-of-equilibrium quantum dynamics, including unpredicted, emergent materials behavior, and use of quantum computing approaches for condensed matter physics as well as development and use of advanced computational tools for materials science, including data analytics, ML and AI.
  • Physical behavior of materials: New focus on understanding microscopic control in quantum materials to advance materials-by design in systems such as superconductors and quantum spin liquids for quantum information science applications.
  • Neutron scattering:  Expanded focus on novel applications of the state-of-the-art neutron scattering techniques to “explore materials for quantum information science, topological materials, ferrotoroidic materials, collective behavior of multi-component systems, emergent phenomena at the interfaces, and design principles for polymer upcycling and polymer-based quantum and energy materials.”
  • Atomic, molecular, and optical sciences: Expanded focus on attosecond science, ultrafast x-ray science, and ultrafast electron diffraction from molecular systems.
  • Computational and theoretical chemistry: New and expanded focus in
    • “practical and hierarchical methods for the high-fidelity simulation of chemical mechanisms and phenomena occurring in the intermediate-to-strong correlation and coupling regimes, including: chemical mechanisms that require the accurate treatment of quantum electrodynamics or nuclear quantum effects, and correlated multi-electron and/or multi-photon phenomena in complex molecular systems,
    • novel or nontraditional theories and approaches for the predictive simulation and control of chemical dynamics in non-equilibrium and/or complex, high-dimensional systems,
    • simulation and coupling of multiple interactions/scales in a dynamical system, including: electronic, vibrational, and atomistic structure; dissipative interactions; interactions between matter, radiation, fields, and environment; spin-dependent and magnetic effects; and/or the role of polarization, solvation, and weak interactions.”
  • Catalysis science: New focus on
    • electro-mediated catalytic processes as an alternative method for synthesis under mild conditions with the potential to impact fuel or large-scale chemical production and
    • thermal or electro-catalysis mediated by earth-abundant metals.
  • Separation science: New focus on:
    • “elucidating factors that cause a separation system to approach mass transfer limitation in the source phase;
    • enabling and enhancing strategies for critical materials recovery from natural and unconventional feedstocks, for water and environmental management of heavy elements and nuclear waste, and for carbon removal from low-concentration sources;
    • understanding non-thermal mechanisms that have the potential to drive efficient and selective energy-relevant separations, such as electromagnetic, magneto-reactive, and other means to affect transport and bonding selectively;
    • discovering and advancing strategies for removal of dilute constituents from a mixture, including but not limited to reactive separation approaches;
    • generating specific and long-range interactions among trace constituents with the aim of promoting nucleation of a new phase that is enriched in the target species;
    • discovering novel approaches for dehydration of heterogeneous systems without the application of heat;
    • designing separation systems that have high selectivity, capacity, and throughput; [and]
    • understanding and controlling temporal changes that occur in separation systems.”
  • Heavy element chemistry: New focus on catalytic reactivity involving actinides, including exotic catalytic and redox behavior exhibited by actinides in extreme environments, such as the legacy nuclear waste tanks or molten salts, as well the exploration of unique electronic properties of the f-elements for quantum information science applications (e.g., actinide qubits or the synthesis and investigation of strongly correlated multidimensional lattices).
  • Solar photochemistry: New focus on understanding degradation mechanisms to enhance photochemical durability, designing catalytic microenvironments that promote selective production of energy-rich solar fuels, exploiting direct coupling of light-driven phenomena and chemical processes to enhance performance, and tailoring interactions of complex phenomena to achieve integrated multicomponent assemblies for solar fuels production.
  • Accelerator and detector research: New focus on
    • “superconducting undulators with strong focusing and magnetic field tapering to maximize the electron energy conversion to x-rays and meet the challenges of Terawatt amplifiers for single particle imaging,
    • source-generated THz radiation models that will lead to advances in experimental sciences, and
    • tight control of beam losses that can address higher neutron-flux capabilities at the Spallation Neutron Source with high-intensity H‒ currents.”
  • Nuclear physics: New focus on understanding how heavy nuclei have emerged since the origin of the universe and continue to be created via nucleo-synthesis in cataclysmic cosmic events as well as searching for undiscovered forms of nuclear matter.
    • Expanded focus on quantum information science including quantum computation, quantum simulations and simulators, quantum sensing, quantum-enhanced nuclear physics detectors, nuclear many-body problem, ‘squeezed’ quantum states, nuclear qubits, entanglement at collider energies, and lattice gauge theories as well as novel areas of basic research.
  • Isotope production research: New focus on novel or improved capabilities for inducing transmutation of atoms in targets to create radioisotopes, including “aspects targetry and target fabrication, as well as the development of innovative approaches to model and predict the behavior of targets undergoing irradiation in order to optimize yield and minimize target failures during routine isotope production.”
  • Isotope processing and purification: New focus on improvement and development of novel chemical and physical processes to recover and purify radioisotopes from activated targets, including the development of automated production and processing techniques to enhance the efficiency and safety of radioisotope production such as the use of Artificial Intelligence or machine learning.
  • Nuclear chemistry and radiochemical separations: New focus on isotopes not necessarily resulting from direct transmutation of target material (e.g. the recovery and purification of radioisotopes from legacy materials, facility components, or waste streams of other processing efforts).
  • Biological tracers and imaging: New focus on the development of isotopes and chemical constructs which have physical or chemical properties that make them particularly useful as biological tracers and imaging agents, including the development of novel chelating agents or other ligands.
  • Isotopic enrichment technology:  New focus on stable isotope enrichment capabilities utilizing technologies other than gas centrifuge and electromagnetic ion separation.
  • Accelerator R&D and production: New focus on
    • superconducting accelerator systems—both radiofrequency accelerators and high-field magnets—including research on superconducting materials, engineering, and cryogenic techniques,
    • beam physics and high-fidelity computer modeling, “together with better diagnostics and advanced control systems, including theory and simulation to accurately model the next generation of particle accelerators; better diagnostics, more sophisticated and automated control systems; and advances in particle-collider-specific beam physics including final focusing and advanced cooling techniques,”
    • very high brightness and high current electron sources, high intensity proton and ion sources and more robust megawatt-class targets for secondary beam production,
    • high average power radiofrequency and ultrafast laser sources, including improvements in power handling devices such as waveguide windows and couplers for radiofrequency systems, and high-power optics and coatings for laser systems,
    • high-risk, high-reward advances in accelerator science and technology, including novel particle sources, advanced beam dynamics, new acceleration techniques, and next generation materials.

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