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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


Organic waste streams contain substantial amounts of chemical energy. Resource streams including food and beverage wastewaters, municipal wastewater, livestock manure slurries, the non-recyclable fraction of municipal solid waste, and other industrial food wastes are biogenic in origin. Thus, energy produced from them can be considered renewable, as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has done in granting eligibility to fuels produced from these sources for cellulosic Renewable Identification Numbers [1]. While some of the available energy is currently being captured, a significant amount remains untapped [2-4]. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is interested in processes to produce biofuels and bioproduct precursors from these wet organic feedstocks. One particular focus is to extend the idea of Integrated Biorefineries (IBRs) to wet organic waste streams [5], in support of burgeoning industry interest in “energy-positive water resource recovery” facilities, which produce clean water, energy, and nutrients from municipal wastewaters [6,7]. A 2015 DOE workshop also elicited input on the potential of anaerobic membrane bioreactors (AnMBRs) and microbial electrochemical cells (MxCs) to contribute to this aim, particularly at the distributed scales at which these feedstocks occur [8]. Finally, a 2014 DOE waste-to-energy workshop yielded participant recommendations to target both alternative anaerobic digestion reactor designs, and options to bypass biogas production in converting wet organic feedstocks to biofuels and bioproducts [9]. This topic is in direct response to those and other stakeholder inputs. While some specifics vary by subtopic, the following criteria will apply to all applications:

- Proposed systems must utilize wet organic waste streams as the primary feedstock to produce fuels. Wet waste streams are defined in the Bioenergy Technologies Office Multi-Year Program Plan [10]. For purposes of this Small Business Innovation Research topic, biogas is specifically excluded as a feedstock. - By Phase II, and preferably within Phase I, proposed projects should employ actual (rather than model or synthetic) waste streams as feedstocks.

- Successful applications will propose to develop and run pilot systems by the end of Phase II, at a relevant scale (e.g., 100–1,000 L reactor volume).

- Applications must address the energy efficiency of the system. Successful applications will minimize the ratio of required energy inputs to the energy potential of proposed outputs.

- Carbon efficiency is another important metric. Applications will be evaluated on their probability of maximizing utilization of the biogenic carbon available in relevant resource streams.

- Projects that contribute to and/or leverage the development of fundamental scientific knowledge in areas, including, but not limited to, interspecies electron transfer, improved understanding of heterogeneous microbial and archeal communities, and advances in toolkit development in terms of proteomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and other related areas are of particular interest.

- End products should include at least either three carbon molecules, or at least two carbon molecules with one or more double bonds. Acetylene is specifically excluded.

- Proposals that utilize algae, even if grown on wastewater, and dry waste streams, such as corn stover, or the herbaceous and woody fractions of municipal solid waste, will be considered non-responsive. - Feedstocks that could be processed to inputs for human or animal food or feed products, including waste glycerol from biodiesel processes, are specifically excluded.

- Transesterification of yellow grease to produce biodiesel is also specifically excluded. Brown grease, however, is an acceptable feedstock.

- In all cases, DOE is interested in projects that present the possibility of producing commercially relevant and economically competitive higher hydrocarbons from biogenic sources to displace petroleum. Examples include, but are by no means limited to, butanol, 1, 4-butanediol, and mediumchain fatty acids, such as succinic, muconic, and lactic acids. Proposals that strive to complete the 40 conversion of relevant feedstocks to jet or diesel fuels by the end of phase II are particularly encouraged.

- Hydrogen, ethanol, and methanol are not allowed as products, but are acceptable as intermediates, if the proposal is clear how the intermediates will be incorporated into processes to produce biofuels or bioproduct precursors by the completion of Phase II.

- Applications that propose to solely produce biopower will be considered non-responsive.

Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics:

a.     Anaerobic Membrane Bioreactors (AnMBRs) and Microbial Electrochemical Cells (MxCs) as Enablers for Wastewater Integrated Biorefineries (IBRs)

AnMBRs have the potential to extend the economic viability of anaerobic digestion to smaller scales, which would enable expanded deployment of distributed energy recovery from relevant waste streams [11-13]. MxCs hold forth the possibility of producing biofuels and bioproduct precursors from waste feedstocks [8, 14, 15]. Combinations of the two could simultaneously produce petroleum replacements, clean water, and valuable nutrients, a meaningful extension of the notion of IBRs that fits well with larger visions of future Bioeconomies This subtopic seeks applications that produce biofuels and bioproducts from wet organic feedstocks using combinations of MxCs and AnMBRs [13, 16, 17]. Proposals that effectively address the challenge of energyefficient fouling reduction in AnMBRs are especially welcomed, as are applications that set forth a credible path for scaling of MxCs to industrial relevance. Proposals may utilize either MxCs or AnMBRs alone, but all applications must demonstrate positive energy balances, as detailed above. Applications that include the production of clean water as a valuable byproduct will also be viewed favorably.


Questions – contact: Dan Fishman,  


b.     Production of Biofuels and Bioproduct Precursors via Arrested Methanogenesis

One of the clearest participant messages from the 2014 Waste-to-Energy workshop was that anaerobic digestion that produces biogas might not be the most cost-effective pathway to liquid fuels [9]. In response to this input, the DOE seeks alternatives to the methanogenesis stage of anaerobic digestion. Production of biofuels and bioproduct precursors from volatile fatty acids is one promising option, and other possibilities will be entertained [18]. Applications should address specific mechanisms to inhibit methanogenesis, measures to minimize inhibition of valuable product production, and strategies to convert the products of the earlier stages of anaerobic digestion into biofuels and bioproduct precursors [19-22]. Again, applications that propose to complete conversion of relevant feedstocks to jet or diesel fuels by the end of phase II are particularly encouraged.


Questions – contact: Dan Fishman,


c.      Other

In addition to the specific subtopic listed above, the Department invites grant applications in other areas that fall within the scope of the topic description above.

Questions – contact: Tina Kaarsberg,



References: Subtopic a:

1. Alibardi, L., Cossu, R., Saleem, M., and Spagni, A., 2014, Development and Permeability of a Dynamic Membrane for Anaerobic Wastewater Treatment, Bioresource Technology, Vol. 161, p. 236-244. (


2. Andalib, M., Elbeshbishy, E., Mustafa, N., Hafez, H., et al., 2014, Performance of an Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Bioreactor (AnFBR) for Digestion of Primary Municipal Wastewater Treatment Biosolids and Bioethanol Thin Stillage, Renewable Energy, Vol. 71, p. 276-285. ( hanol_thin_stillage)


3. Li, J., Ge, Z., and He, Z., 2014, A Fluidized Bed Membrane Bioelectrochemical Reactor for Energyefficient Wastewater Treatment, Bioresource Technology, Vol. 167, p. 310-315. (


4. Logan, B.E., and Rabaey, K., 2012, Conversion of Wastes into Bioelectricity and Chemicals by Using Microbial Electrochemical Technologies, Science, Vol. 337, Issue 6095, p. 686-690. (


5. Mohan, S.V., Velvizhi, G., Modestra, J.A., and Srikanth, S., 2014, Microbial Fuel Cell: Critical Factors Regulating Bio-catalyzed Electrochemical Process and Recent Advancements, Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 40, p.779-797. ( g_bio-catalyzed_electrochemical_process_and_recent_advancements)


6. Ren, L., Ahn, Y., and Logan, B.E., 2014, A Two-Stage Microbial Fuel Cell and Anaerobic Fluidized Bed Membrane Bioreactor (MFC-AFMBR) System for Effective Domestic Wastewater Treatment, Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 48, Issue 7, p. 4199-4206. (


7. Tian, Y, Ji, C, Wang, K and Le-Clech, P., 2014, Assessment of an Anaerobic Membrane Bioelectrochemical Reactor (AnMBER) for Wastewater Treatment and Energy Recovery, Journal of Membrane Science, Vol. 450, p242-248. ( Katuri-etal-ES&T.pdf)


References: Subtopic b:

1. Lee, W.S., Chua, A.S.M., Yeoh, H.K., and Ngoh, G.C., 2014, A Review of the Production and Applications of Waste-derived Volatile Fatty Acids, Chemical Engineering Journal, Vol. 235, p. 83-99. (


2. Vajpeyi, S and Chandran, K., 2015, Microbial Conversion of Synthetic and Food Waste-derived Volatile Fatty Acids to Lipids, Bioresource Technology, Vol. 188, p. 49-55. (


 3. Yun, J.H., Sawant, S.S., and Kim, B.S., Production of Polyhydroxyalkanoates by Ralstonia Eutropha from Volatile Fatty Acids, Korean Journal of Chemical Engineering, Vol. 30, Issue 12, p. 2223-2227. (


4. Gaeta-Bernardi, A and Parente, V., 2016, Organic Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) as Feedstock for Biodiesel Production: A Financial Feasibility Analysis, Renewable Energy, Vol. 86, p. 1422-1432. (


5. Tice, R.C., and Kim, Y., 2014, Methanogenesis Control by Electrolytic Oxygen Production in Microbial Electrolysis Cells, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy, Vol. 39, Issue 7, p. 3079-3086. (


References: All Subtopics:

1. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014, EPA. Regulation of Fuels and Fuel Additives: RFS Pathways II, and Technical Amendments to the RFS Standards and E15 Misfueling Mitigation Requirements Federal Register, 2014; Vol. 79, Issue 138, p. 42128-42167. ( 08/documents/2014-16413.pdf)


2. US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Advancing Sustainable Materials Management: Facts and Figures. (


3. Shen, Y., Linville, J.L., Urgun-Demirtas, M., et al., 2015, An Overview of Biogas Production and Utilization at Full-scale Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) in the United States: Challenges and opportunities towards energy-neutral WWTPs, Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, Vol. 50, p. 346-362. (


4. WERF, 2014, Utilities of the Future Energy Findings, Final Report, Water Environment Research Federation, Alexandria, VA, p. 86. (


5. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2015, Integrated Biorefineries. (


6. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2015, Energy Positive Water Resource Recovery Workshop Report, April 28-29, p.58. (

7. Water Environment & Reuse Foundation (WERF), 2011, Energy Production and Efficiency Research - The Roadmap to Net-Zero Energy, WER Foundation, Alexandria, p. 8. (


8. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2015, Hydrogen, Hydrocarbons, and Bioproduct Precursors from Wastewaters Workshop. (       


9. Energetics Incorporated, 2015, Waste-to-Energy Workshop Summary, U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, p. 53. (


10. U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2015, Bioenergy Technologies Office Multi-Year Program Plan: March 2015 Update, p. 244. (

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