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Please Note that a Letter of Intent is due Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Program Area Overview


The Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES) supports fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels in order to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. The results of BES-supported research are routinely published in the open literature.

A key function of the program is to plan, construct, and operate premier scientific user facilities for the development of novel nanomaterials and for materials and chemical characterization through x-ray and neutron scattering; the former is accomplished through five Nanoscale Science Research Centers and the latter is accomplished through the world's largest suite of light source and neutron scattering facilities. These national resources are available free of charge to all researchers based on the quality and importance of proposed nonproprietary experiments.

A major objective of the BES program is to promote the transfer of the results of our basic research to advance and create technologies important to Department of Energy (DOE) missions in areas of energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, improved use of fossil fuels, the mitigation of the adverse impacts of energy production and use, and future nuclear energy sources. The following set of technical topics represents one important mechanism by which the BES program augments its system of university and laboratory research programs and integrates basic science, applied research, and development activities within the DOE.

For additional information regarding the Office of Basic Energy Sciences priorities, click here.



Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $150,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,000,000

Accepting SBIR Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Applications: YES

Many significant materials innovations and advancements have been realized since the introduction of solid-state lighting products for general illumination applications nearly a decade ago. During this period, the worldwide lighting industry has begun an unprecedented transformation away from legacy lighting products using electric lamp technologies developed a century ago and with efficacies barely over a few lumens per watt and lasting only a few hundred hours. Today’s solid-state lighting (SSL) devices routinely exceed 100 lumens per watt for 50,000 hours but are thought to be capable of doubling these values with the advent of new advanced materials and components. This extraordinary transformation has been made possible by significant materials advancements and new components used to manufacture Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) and Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs). Many scientific and engineering disciplines have contributed to this successful lighting transformation and significant energy conservation opportunity ranging from basic physics, chemistry and mathematics to applied engineering disciplines, materials science and even biology.

While these technological advancements have unquestionably helped to make the solid-state transformation in general illumination a reality, development of advanced new materials are required to harvest the full economic and performance potential of these transformative SSL technologies. Even though the rapid evolution of SSL price and performance targets has been remarkable over the past decade, the industry and DOE believe that there are still many notable opportunities for even more significant cost reductions and product performance improvements. It is expected that these improvements will be made possible with the advent of new advanced materials across the wide spectrum of SSL products and components.

The special scientific challenges associated with making these predicted advancements possible in any of the numerous materials systems that make energy efficient and cost competitive SSL products possible are of interest under this topic. The following subtask descriptions highlight a few opportunities that are of special interest to the DOE and are included in the Department’s Solid-State Lighting (SSL) program that is explained more fully on the program’s comprehensive website: Many technical reports, roundtable summaries, program roadmaps and summaries of current and past SSL projects may be downloaded at this website. Through this SBIR-STTR opportunity, grant applications are sought that address these advanced materials and components challenges that will build upon sound basic scientific knowledge leading to commercially successful intellectual property or intermediate components used specifically in the evolution of energy efficient, high color quality and cost effective SSL sources. General descriptions of areas for advancement are included in the following subtopics and proposals submitted for consideration should address the subtopic that best describes the end product’s application space.

The intent of this broad topic is to encourage innovative material science development or composite solutions that will enable SSL products to perform closer to their theoretically predicted maxima in the long run and meet or exceed the aggressive device performance goals established by the DOE in the SSL R&D Plan available for download at Responsive proposals must succinctly address and reference one or more of the key R&D challenges described fully in the DOE’s SSL R&D Plan. Innovations that address manufacturing technology and cost of SSL Products while simultaneously addressing the fundamental materials challenges such as those described here as they pertain to general illumination applications are welcome. Applications that primarily address other related photonic materials or devices not directly relating to general illumination in buildings such as automotive lighting, projection or displays will not be accepted. The key metric for judging responsiveness of all proposals will be the commercialization potential identified in the applications, quantitative comparison to existing materials or components used in SSL and the prospect of making a substantive, long term and positive impact on the rapidly evolving SSL industry resulting in the production of higher quality SSL products at affordable life cycle cost. Proposals that include substantial technical risk are encouraged provided that they articulate a viable plan to retire such risk during the Phase I period of performance with appropriate proof of principle demonstration. Projects that result in important intellectual property are especially valuable as they may provide future revenue in the form of royalties or cross-licenses to benefit the small business or participating technology transfer office.

Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics:


a. Efficiency and Performance Advancements of Down Converting Materials Systems

Many constituent materials are used today in the manufacture of phosphor-converted LEDs (pcLEDs) and phosphorescent OLEDs. While these components perform very well, there are important opportunities for device performance improvement and manufacturing cost reductions. Materials systems with good thermal stability and high quantum yield are used today in commercial pcLEDs and in future products that may use quantum dots or nanocrystals instead of conventional phosphors. The SSL industry has worked with DOE to identify a number of high priority, materials oriented research and development opportunities that are summarized in the references. For example, certain fundamental photonic processes such as non-radiative loss mechanisms in nanocrystals or QDs remain incompletely understood particularly at the high temperatures and power densities of interest to SSL. Color control, lifetime and spectrum of rare earth containing phosphors used for pcLEDs remains a challenge and despite their achievement of very high quantum yields, these materials typically fail at the temperatures and power levels thought to be targets for future SSL products. Also, there are important gaps in existing down-conversion spectrum in both color and efficiency especially at certain pump wavelengths. Consequently, some pcLEDs are less comparable to more familiar legacy lighting products whose emission spectrum is more continuous. For OLEDs, certain limitations in phosphorescent emitter efficiency remain and limit power densities, color, spectrum and service lifetime. Encapsulation materials and techniques that offer a balanced relationship between optical performance, stability, shelf life and exposure to environmental conditions associated with modern building illumination requirements, continues to discourage widespread use of OLEDs. While constituent materials used in either system are relatively low, manufacturing costs are high due to the special techniques, tools and manpower requirements of each. Thus, targeted materials system improvements or new constituent component technology or intermediate products are sought that will overcome these and other down converting approaches whose price and performance targets are more fully described in the DOE SSL Program R&D Plan.

Questions – contact: James R. Brodrick,


b. Optical Performance of Photonic Materials

All SSL sources have special optical performance requirements that often conflict with other requirements. Many current SSL products use carefully engineered optical solutions that produce a viable balance between high performance demands and low manufacturing cost. In many cases however, new solutions are believed to enable even better optical performance, especially for beam management at little or no additional cost. Examples include optical out coupling enhancements for both LEDs and OLEDs that are derived from imaginative or novel geometrical optical designs such as graded index matching or better index of refraction matching for polymeric encapsulating materials like silicon. Out coupling efficiency and beam management can also be effected by using novel materials or structures such as diffractive optical elements or sophisticated computer generated diffusers to improve optical performance of devices. Combining recently developed physics-based mathematical modeling with advanced computational power may also be used to develop new products or tools that allow more of the generated light from the SSL source to reach the desired illuminated surface. Specific materials development or intermediate products or components that achieve notable optical performance improvement that is both easy and inexpensive to manufacture yet whose performance can be quantitatively predicted are sought under this subtopic.

Questions – contact: James R. Brodrick,


c. Emitter and Substrate Materials

The state-of-the-art emitter materials systems for both LEDs and OLEDs have become somewhat standardized especially in the extensively researched and mass-produced III-Nitride alloy system used widely today as the workhorse for SSL. Despite their good efficiency, there remains ample room for fundamental materials improvement in both technologies. In LED systems for example, a number of technical challenges such as droop and materials defects arise as a consequence of the lattice constant mismatch between the emitter film and the deposition substrate. These conspire to limit device efficiency, lifetime and yield. It is possible that alternative alloys or structures could reduce the deleterious effects at both molecular levels as well as in the resulting crystalline structures. Alternative lower cost substrate materials or structures that produce more ideal growth conditions and reduction in cost by improving reproducibility, color and yield are also possible. In OLED systems, stable, long-life blue emitters, effects of compositional impurities, environmental contamination, current introduction and electrode transparency still remain among the more fundamental materials challenges that limit achievement of maximum efficacy, extraordinary lifetime and low cost of manufacture. For OLED substrates, current distribution, electron or hole injection, and optical properties may provide opportunities to improve OLED performance in flexible designs that are more easily and cost effectively manufactured using less complex tools and for a wider variety of applications in general illumination. It is expected that by increasing our scientific knowledge and understanding of these and similar fundamental materials effects in SSL, development of new and advanced materials, components or IP that would further improve and advance market penetration of any SSL technology beyond today’s levels can be achieved and is well matched to the SBIR-STTR program.

Questions – contact: James R. Brodrick,


d. Other

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.

Questions – Contact: James R. Brodrick,



1.     U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2016, Solid-State Lighting 2016 Research & Development Plan, Prepared for Lighting Research and Development Building Technologies Program at the Department of Energy. (


2.     U.S. Department of Energy Solid-State Lighting Program, 2015, DOE Solid-State Lighting Program Overview Brochure, Modest Investments, Extraordinary Impacts. (


3.     U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 2014, DOE Joint Solid-State Lighting Roundtables on Science Challenges, p.20. (

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