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FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR

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Agency: Department of Energy
Program/Year: Both / 2014
Solicitation Number: DE-FOA-0000969
Release Date: August 12, 2013
Open Date: August 12, 2013
Close Date: October 15, 2013
Description: The Department of Energy supports research and facilities in electron and scanning probe microscopy for the characterization of materials. Performance improvements for environmentally acceptable energy generation, transmission, storage, and conversion technologies depend on a detailed understanding of the structural and property characteristics of advanced materials. The enabling feature of nanoscience, as recognized in workshop reports sponsored by the Department of Energy and by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, is the capability to image, manipulate, and control matter and energy on nanometer, molecular, and ultimately atomic scales. These fundamental research areas are strongly tied to the energy mission of the Department, ranging from solar energy, energy storage and conversion technologies, and carbon sequestration. Electron and scanning probe microscopies are some of the primary tools and widely used for characterizing materials. Innovative instrumentation developments offer the promise of radically improving these capabilities, thereby stimulating new innovations in materials science and energy technologies. Major advances are being sought for capability to characterize and understand materials, especially nanoscale materials, in their natural environment at high resolutions typical of electron and scanning probe microscopy and with good temporal resolution. To support this research, grant applications are sought to develop instrumentation capabilities beyond the present state-of-the-art in (a) electron microscopy and microcharacterization, (b) scanning probe microscopy and (c) areas relevant to (a) and (b), such as integrated electron and scanning probe microscopy capabilities.
b: Scanning Probe Microscopy (SPM)
Description: Scanning probe microscopy is vital to the advancement of nanoscale and energy science, and is used in numerous materials research projects and facilities funded by the Department. Grant applications are sought to develop: New generations of SPM platforms capable of operation in the functional gas atmospheres and broad temperature-pressure ranges, functional SPM probes, sample holders-cells (including electrochemical and photoelectrochemical cells), and controller-software support for ultrafast, environmental and functional detection. Areas of interest include: (1) SPM platforms capable of imaging in the controlled and reactive gas environments and elevated temperatures for fuel cell, and catalysis research, (2) variable pressure systems with capabilities for surface cleaning and preparation bridging the gap between ambient and ultra-high vacuum platforms, (3) insulated and shielded probes and electrochemical cells for high-resolution electrical imaging in conductive solutions; (4) heated probes combined with dynamic thermal measurements including thermomechanical, temperature, and integrated with Raman and mass-spectrometry systems, and (5) probes integrated with electrical, thermal, and magnetic field sensors for probing dynamic electrical and magnetic phenomena in the 10 MHz - 100 GHz regime, and (6) SPM platforms and probes for other functional imaging modes (including but not limited to microwave, pump-probe, etc). Probes and probe-holder assemblies should be compatible with existing commercial hardware platforms, or bundled with adaptation kits. Complementary to this effort is the development of reliable hardware, software, and calibration methods for the vertical, lateral, and longitudinal spring constants of the levers, sensitivities, and frequency-dependent transfer functions of the probes. SPM platforms designed for SPM combined with other high-resolution structural and chemical characterization modes. Examples include but are not limited to (a) SPM platforms integrated with high-resolution electron beam imaging in transmission and scanning transmission electron microscopy environments, (b) SPM platforms integratable with focused X-ray, (c) imaging modalities providing local chemical information including mass-spectrometry and nano-optical detection. A new generation of optical and other cantilever detectors for beam-deflection-based force microscopies. Areas of interest include: (1) low-noise laser sources and detectors approaching the thermomechanical noise limit, (2) high bandwidth optical detectors operating in the 10-100 MHz regime, and (3) small-spot (sub-3 micron) laser sources for video-rate Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) measurements. Piezoresistive and tuning-fork force detectors compatible with existing low-temperature high-magnetic field environments are also of interest. Systems for next-generation controllers and stand-alone modules for data acquisition and analysis. Areas of interest include: (1) multiple-frequency and fast detection schemes for mapping energy dissipation, as well as mechanical and other functional properties; (2) active control of tip trajectory, grid, and spectral acquisition; and (3) interactive SPMs incorporating decision making process on the single-pixel level. Proposed systems should include provisions for rapid data collection (beyond the ~1kHz bandwidth of feedback-image acquisition of a standard SPM), processing, and quantification; and hardware and platform-independent software for data collection and visualization, including multispectral and multidimensional image analysis (i.e., for force volume imaging or other spectroscopic imaging techniques generating 3D or 4D data arrays). For rapid data acquisition systems, software and data processing algorithms for data interpretation are strongly encouraged.
c: Other
Description: In addition to the specific subtopics listed above, the Department invites grant applications in other areas that fall within the scope of the topic description above.