Green Projects Approved For NSF Grants
September 26, 2012

20 Green Research Projects Get Green Light For NSF Grants

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

After a comprehensive review process, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has selected 20 interdisciplinary research teams for grants that will be dedicated to pursuing sustainable energy solutions.

The grants are a part of the Sustainable Energy Pathways (SEP) program that was started by the NSF in 2011 and is designed for “developing systems approaches to sustainable energy pathways based on a comprehensive understanding of the scientific, technical, environmental, economic, and societal issues,” according to a statement on the program´s website.

"SEP is the first NSF program to generate basic scientific research and innovation on sustainable energy in the context of environmental, economic and societal acceptance," said SEP co-Chair George Maracas. "This life cycle, or systems, approach is implemented by forming research teams with expertise in several disciplines that collaborate on a plan for sustainable energy.”

By design, the SEP program covers a wide range of disciplines and projects, some of which include the development of solar technology, energy storage and management solutions, wind turbines and geothermal energy translation. The project also includes disciplines such as building design that can be used to maximize energy efficiency.

"The SEP program is unique in how it broadly crosses disciplines to find sustainable energy solutions," said Zeev Rosenzweig, SEP co-chair. "The projects bring together mathematicians; chemists and materials scientists; geoscientists; computer scientists; chemical, electrical, mechanical and bioengineers; and social, behavioral and economics scientists in unique combinations.”

The projects are designed to be funded for up to four years at a maximum of $500,000 annually from the NSF's taxpayer-funded budget. A total of $37 million has been allocated for the SEP program and each project is allocated a different amount of funds. The majority of these funds will go to researchers at public universities.

The announcement comes as the amount of state funding dedicated to research at public institutions appears to be drying up. A new report from the National Science Board, which over sees the NSF, said that state support for public research universities dropped 20 percent between 2002 and 2010.

Meanwhile, many public sector scientists have been lured away by more attractive offers from private institutions. The report also showed the pay gap between public and private research is widening.

According to the report, ten states saw research funding drop by 30 percent or more and both Colorado and Rhode Island institutions experienced a 50 percent drop in research funding.

The SEP program represents an important shot in the arm for many public research universities that government officials hope will generate a significant return on the federal government´s investment for years to come.

"We are proud to offer our strong support for the launch of the SEP program, which epitomizes both NSF's commitment to funding transformative fundamental research and to meeting the global challenges of the 21st century," says Celeste Rohlfing, acting assistant director for NSF's Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate. "The program's strong educational component will ensure that the next generation of the scientific workforce is prepared to continue the work of building a sustainable energy future."