Description: The U.S. Department of Energy recognizes catalysis as an essential technology for accelerating and directing chemical transformation. In particular, catalysis is a key approach for converting alternative feedstocks, such as biomass, natural gas carbon dioxide, and water to commodity fuels and chemical products. Catalysis enables resource-efficient access to chemical products by requiring less energy and materials to achieve a desired chemical reaction. Major advances are being sought in many aspects of catalysis with respect to fuel cells and biofuels development, including using computer modeling to understand and improve catalyst performance to developing new catalytic synthetic routes to chemical products that start from non-petroleum-derived feedstocks.
b: Computer-Aided Design of Improved Catalysts for Synthesizing Biomass-Derived Products
Description: In this subtopic, new methods for designing improved catalytic function for catalysts (including enzymes, heterogeneous catalysts, and other catalysts) are sought. Computer-aided design methods, including in-silico modeling of a) active enzyme sites to enhance development of broader specificity for use of 5 and 6 carbon sugars in conversions; b) aqueous phase chemical catalysts for increased specificity; c) approaches to achieving more efficient and stable hydrogenases and dehydratases; and d) approaches to increase stability of enzymes that can function in non-aqueous systems.
c: Catalysis for the Conversion of Aqueous Biomass Intermediate Streams into Hydrocarbon Fuels and Products
Description: Biofuels can be produced using several different conversion technologies, including thermochemical methods such as fast pyrolysis of biomass and biochemical methods such as enzymatic conversion of sugar intermediates. Many of these conversion technologies result in the production of an aqueous waste stream that contains potentially valuable carbon-containing molecules. Process economics for these conversion technologies could be improved if by-products in the aqueous streams could be converted into value-added products. In this subtopic, new methods for the catalytic conversion of aqueous biomass intermediate streams into hydrocarbon fuels and products are sought. Access to real aqueous waste streams through collaboration with a bio-fuel producer is ideal. Use of a model aqueous waste stream needs to be justified. Any proposed work needs to be benchmarked against the current state-of-the-art.
d: Discovery and-or Development of Non-PGM Catalysts for PEM- and AEM- Fuel Cells and Electrolyzers
Description: DOE is seeking novel transformative research demonstrating potential to lead to the development of next generation non-precious group metal (PGM) oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) catalysts for polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs), bifunctional oxygen evolution reaction (OER)-ORR catalysts for reversible PEMFCs, hydrogen oxidation reaction (HOR) and ORR catalysts for alkaline membrane fuel cells (AMFCs), and bifunctional OER-ORR catalysts for reversible AMFCs. Non-PGM catalysts for electrolyzers are also of interest. Status and R&D needs for AMFCs1 and for reversible fuel cells2 were identified at two workshops held in 2011. For PEMFCs, DOE has targeted PGM total content for both electrodes at < 0.125 g PGM-kW and PGM total loading < 0.125 mg PGM-cm2 (electrode area) by 2017.3 DOE has targeted 300 A-cm3 at 800 mV IR-free by 2017 for non-PGM catalysts.3 The work plan should include a discussion of the catalytic activity testing required to show viability, including RDE and MEA testing, and should demonstrate a pathway toward scientific advancement, which may include development of a better understanding of the active site.
e: Photo- and Electrochemical Conversions in Especially High Heat Transfer Chemical Contacting Schemes
Description: This subtopic solicits new conversion processes involving photo and electrochemical catalysis that use a liquid or vapor contacting scheme that provides extremely high heat and mass transfer rates, such as microchannel chemical reactors. The strategy behind such contacting schemes is the conversion efficiencies possible with heat transfer rates high enough to limit hazardous potential of chemical and oxygen contacting within inflammability mixture limits, for example. These chemical reactor contacting schemes have not been extended to involve photo- or electrochemical conversions, which might improve conversion efficiencies even more. The investigation of such new catalytic processes involves long term R&D, which will be a factor considered in the evaluation of grant applications responsive to this subtopic solicitation.
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.