US DoE Creates Energy Frontier Research Centers (corrected)

DOE-BES has announced the selection and creation of Energy Frontier Research Centers.

Two of the proposals selected are focused on thermoelectrics and an third has thermoelectric content.  [editor’s note: In my original posting I had missed the award to Don Morelli at MSU.  Apologies for the oversight.]

From the announcement (Full announcement –  

Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) Awards April 27, 2009.  The White House today announced that the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science will invest $777 million in Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs) over the next five years.  In a major effort to accelerate the scientific breakthroughs needed to build a new 21st-century energy economy, 46 new multi-million-dollar EFRCs will be established at universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms across the nation (White House Fact Sheet).

Supported in part by funds made available under President Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act), the EFRCs will bring together groups of leading scientists to address fundamental issues in fields ranging from solar energy and electricity storage to materials sciences, biofuels, advanced nuclear systems, and carbon capture and sequestration (synopses of the 46 EFRC awards).

The 46 EFRCs, which are to be funded at $2–5 million per year each for a planned initial five-year period, were selected from a pool of some 260 applications received in response to a solicitation issued in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Science.

Over 110 institutions from 36 states plus the District of Columbia will be participating in the EFRC research.  In all, the EFRCs will involve nearly 700 senior investigators and employ, on a full- or part-time basis, over 1,100 postdoctoral associates, graduate students, undergraduate students, and technical staff (fact sheet). Roughly a third of these researchers will be supported by Recovery Act funding.


Synopses of the two centers related to thermoelectrics follow:


Center on Materials for Energy Efficiency Applications
John Bowers, Director
University of California, Santa Barbara

To discover and develop materials that control the interactions between light,
electricity, and heat at the nanoscale for improved solar energy conversion, solid-state lighting,
and conversion of heat into electricity.

The research in this EFRC is comprised of fundamental studies involving synthesis and
characterization of a variety of materials: organic, inorganic, nanostructured and bio-inspired
materials for solar energy conversion; nanostructured thermoelectric materials for heat transport;
and gallium-nitride-based materials for solid-state lighting. This EFRC includes planned
collaboration with scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Los Alamos National
Laboratory, the University of California Santa Cruz, and the University of Michigan.


Revolutionary Materials for Solid State Energy Conversion: A DOE Energy
Frontier Research Center
Donald Morelli, Director
Michigan State University

Objective: To investigate the underlying physical and chemical principles of advanced
materials for the conversion of heat into electricity.

This EFRC will achieve its objective through the novel design, synthesis, and characterization of
thermoelectric materials. The effort will focus on lowering the thermal conductivity and
manipulating the electronic density of states to improve the electrical conductivity in broad range
of materials, including nanostructured composites, spinodal-decomposed materials, selfassembled
nanostructures, disordered inhomogeneous bulk systems, and semiconductors with
resonant levels. The EFRC includes planned collaborations with scientists at Northwestern
University, Ohio State University, University of Michigan, University of California-Los Angeles,
Wayne State University, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.


Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center
Gang Chen, Director
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Objective: To create novel, solid-state materials for the conversion of sunlight and heat into

This EFRC aims to advance our fundamental scientific understanding of thermoelectric and
thermo-photovoltaic materials and to develop novel materials and devices to harvest energy from
the sun and terrestrial heat sources. The multidisciplinary effort integrates theory and experiment
to study the fundamentals of photon, phonon and charge carrier interactions in thermoelectric
materials and will also utilize photonic crystals and metamaterials to convert the solar energy
spectrum, in an attempt to provide an ideal match to the bandgap of photovoltaic materials. This
EFRC includes planned collaborations with scientists at Boston College and Oak Ridge National
Laboratory, and will encompas s novel materials synthesis, phonon and electron spectroscopies,
multi-scale modeling and simulation, and will utilize scanning transmission electron microscopy
imaging facilities, neutron spectrometers at the High-Flux Isotope Reactor and the Spallation
Neutron Source of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and ultraviolet photoelectron spectroscopy
at the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven National Laboratory.