Northwestern Receives $15 Million for Frontier Research Centers

By Julianne BeckJuly 10, 2018

Northwestern University research initiatives have received a cumulative $15 million from the Department of Energy (DOE) for the most recent funding round of the national Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRC) program. The two selected proposals from Northwestern, the Center for Bio-Inspired Energy Science (CBES) and the Center for Light Energy Activated Redox Processes (LEAP), were among 42 programs collectively funded for $100 million to accelerate scientific understanding in energy-relevant fields.

The EFRC program was established in 2009 and is funded by the DOE Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences Program. CBES will receive $12 million in renewal funding for a four-year term. LEAP will receive $3 million in a two-year extension of a 2009 Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center EFRC grant.

“We are very pleased that, once again, the DOE has chosen to invest in Northwestern’s robust research programs,” says Fruma Yehiely, associate vice president for research. “The leadership and expertise of our scientists, combined with the University’s commitment and success in developing high-impact, cross-disciplinary research makes Northwestern an ideal environment to pursue fundamental advances in energy and related fields. The new knowledge that will be generated holds the promise to fuel innovation that creates profound social and economic benefit, while also strengthening national energy security."

Both CBES and LEAP are part of Northwestern’s ecosystem of 53 University Research Institutes and Centers, interdisciplinary knowledge hubs that harness talent from across all areas of the institution.

CBES is directed by Samuel I. Stupp, Board of Trustees Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, Chemistry, Medicine, and Biomedical Engineering at Northwestern and director of the Simpson Querrey Institute. CBES aims to discover and develop bio-inspired systems that reveal new connections between energy and matter. Funding from the EFRC will support CBES’ central research objectives with a focus on six specific areas.

The LEAP Center will build on the scientific foundation of its predecessor EFRC, the Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research (ANSER) Center, which was established in 2009 and renewed in 2014. LEAP’s mission is to develop the fundamental scientific understanding needed to use efficient light-driven multi-electron redox processes to power energy-demanding chemistry. Three focal areas include powering redox processes using unconventional organic and inorganic semiconductors, designing and synthesizing molecules and materials to use those charges to perform energy-intensive reactions such as water splitting and tailoring interfaces among organic or inorganic semiconductors to control charge flow to catalysts.

Northwestern faculty will also participate in three other EFRC research teams housed at peer institutions: the Center For Electrolyte-Electrode Interface Science (CEES) and the Center for Advanced Materials for Energy-Water Systems (AMEWS)  — both at Argonne National Laboratory—and the Inorganometallic Catalyst Design Center (ICDC) at the University of Minnesota. Northwestern’s principal investigator at CEES is Mark Hersam, materials science and engineering; at AMEWS is Harold Kung, chemical and biological engineering; and at ICDC is Joseph Hupp, chemistry.

Read more.