Sandia National Laboratories
researchers scored big in the $777 million, five-year DOE Energy Frontier Research
Centers (EFRCs) announced last week by the White House.
Sandia researchers Jerry Simmons (far left), Michael Coltrin, and Jeff Tsao (standing behind) check out solid-state lighting technologies
Sandia expects to become home to one of 46 new multimillion-dollar centers,
be a significant partner in three others, and may be involved in another four.
The winners, selected from a pool of 260 applicants by DOE’s Office of
Science, are expected to pursue advanced scientific research on energy.
The overall announcement was made in conjunction with a speech by President
Barack Obama at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences.
According to a DOE news release, center selections and plans for funding "were
based on a rigorous merit review process utilizing outside panels composed of
The centers will be situated at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit
organizations, and private firms across the nation.
Sandia's Solid-State Lighting Science center, under the direction of Jerry
Simmons, is expected to receive $18 million in funding over the course of five
"More than 20 percent of our country’s electrical energy is consumed
in lighting. Solid-state lighting, a new technology that will be the focus of
our research, has the potential to cut that energy consumption in half —
or even more," says Simmons.
Center researchers expect to investigate three areas: the conversion of electrical
energy to light through radical designs involving luminescent nanowires, quantum
dots, and hybrid structures; energy conversion processes in photonic structures
smaller than the wavelength of the light they create; and understanding and
eliminating defects in the semiconductor materials that presently limit solid-state
The work is projected to include collaborations with scientists at Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, the University of New Mexico, California Institute of
Technology, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Yale University, Northwestern University,
the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, and Philips Lumileds Lighting.
Sandia also expects to receive $7.75 million as a significant partner in an
EFRC led by the University of Texas at Austin to understand, over multiple length
scales, the potential for capturing and geologically storing carbon dioxide
within the Earth.
Sandia expects to play a further major role in a third center established at
the University of Maryland that focuses on improving electrical energy storage
in batteries, capacitors, and other technologies. Nanostructured electrode components
are expected to provide greater surface areas to store charge, as well as smaller
path lengths for the motion of electrons and ions, thereby increasing the rate
at which charges can be moved and stored. Sandia’s research budget under
Bob Hwang is tentatively set at $6 million.
In a fourth major effort, Sandia will aid Princeton University on its “Energy
Frontier Research Center for Combustion Science,” overseeing $3.75 million
in funding. The center intends to develop a suite of predictive computing modeling
capabilities for the chemical design and utilization of nonpetroleum-based fuels
Another $8.25 million in total is expected to aid research in collaboration
with Notre Dame for “Materials Science of Actinides,” the University
of Arizona’s Center for Interface Science on “Solar Electric Materials
and Devices;” Washington University at St. Louis’ Photosynthetic
Antenna Research Center “to understand the basic scientific principles
that underpin the efficient functioning of the natural photosynthetic antenna
system as a basis for manmade systems to convert sunlight to fuels,” and
the University of Texas at Austin for “understanding charge separation
and transfer at interfaces in energy materials and devices.”
Still other projects are expected to make use of nanoscience-related capabilities
of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, jointly operated by Los Alamos
National Laboratory and Sandia.
In general, EFRC researchers are expected to take advantage of new capabilities
in nanotechnology, high-intensity light sources, neutron-scattering sources,
supercomputing, and other advanced instrumentation 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.
Said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, “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.”