Brookhaven EFRC Seeking to Understand the Underlying Nature of Superconductivity in Complex Materials

Published on April 29, 2009 at 7:31 PM

Brookhaven National Laboratory will be home to one of 46 new multi-million-dollar Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) announced on Monday by the White House in conjunction with a speech delivered by President Barack Obama at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. The EFRCs, which will pursue advanced scientific research on energy, are being established by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation.

"As global energy demand grows over this century, there is an urgent need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil and curtail greenhouse gas emissions," said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. "Meeting this challenge will require significant scientific advances. These Centers will mobilize the enormous talents and skills of our nation's scientific workforce in pursuit of the breakthroughs that are essential to make alternative and renewable energy truly viable as large-scale replacements for fossil fuels."

The 46 EFRCs, which DOE plans to fund at $2 to 5 million per year each for an initial five-year period, were selected from a pool of some 260 applications received in response to a solicitation issued by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science in 2008. Selection was based on a rigorous merit review process utilizing outside panels composed of scientific experts.

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, in an effort to lay the scientific groundwork for fundamental advances in solar energy, biofuels, transportation, energy efficiency, electricity storage and transmission, clean coal and carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear energy.

"We at BNL are delighted to have been chosen to lead a DOE EFRC together with our partners at The University of Illinois and Argonne National Lab, " said Deputy Lab Director for Science and Technology Doon Gibbs. "We are also excited at the way this research will leverage many unique Brookhaven facility strengths including the National Synchrotron Light Source and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials."

The Brookhaven EFRC will seek to understand the underlying nature of superconductivity in complex materials. Unlike ordinary conductors, superconductors carry current with zero resistance so that no energy is lost. Brookhaven researchers seek to improve the critical properties of known superconducting materials and accelerate the search for new superconducting materials. Ultimately the research is aimed at improving the capacity, efficiency, and reliability of the electric grid. These are crucial issues for Long Island, New York State and the nation especially as demand continues to rise and as substantial renewable energy sources like the sun and wind are integrated into the system.

Of the 46 EFRCs selected, 31 are led by universities, 12 by DOE National Laboratories, two by nonprofit organizations, and one by a corporate research laboratory. The criterion for providing an EFRC with Recovery Act funding was job creation. The EFRCs chosen for funding under the Recovery Act provide the most employment for postdoctoral associates, graduate students, undergraduates, and technical staff, in keeping with the Recovery Act's objective to preserve and create jobs and promote economic recovery.

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