Separation Science

This program accepts and reviews proposals continuously under the annual Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) entitled, “Continuation of Solicitation for the Office of Science Financial Assistance Program” available on the Open FOA page. We recommend that a full application is submitted before November 30th in order to facilitate a funding decision by June of the following year. Preproposals or white papers are strongly encouraged for all new proposals and should be submitted through PAMS well in advance of a full application. Please contact the program manager(s) prior to submission of preproposals or proposals.

Research in chemical separations is critical for ensuring a sustainable chemical and refining enterprise, enabling sound nuclear waste cleanup and storage strategies, securing essential elements needed for advanced energy technologies, and addressing contemporary issues of fuel, feedstock, and effluent processing in all phases of matter. The Basic Energy Sciences (BES) Separation Science program funds hypothesis-driven experimental and computational research to discover, understand, predict, and control de-mixing transitions and associated enabling separations technologies.  This includes understanding molecular interactions and energy exchanges that determine the efficiency of chemical separations.  This program also aims to advance the discovery and predictive design of chemical separation paradigms that may become the basis for solutions of to the world’s energy challenges. Equipped with an enhanced understanding of the governing principles for de-mixing transitions that take a chemical system from one thermodynamic state to another, it will be possible to gain more precise control of energy and matter transformations of complex domestic resources.  Separations research will continue to develop the understanding and control of the atomic and molecular interactions between target species and separation media, and the relevant molecular structures, dynamics, kinetics, and transport properties that govern separations.

The Separation Science Program supports emerging fundamental scientific areas within energy-relevant separation science that are in a nascent stage.  Additionally, separation science topics that are of interest the Program are outlined in the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) report AResearch Agenda for Transforming Separation Science. 

Select fundamental topics of interest include:

  • elucidating factors that cause a separation system to approach mass transfer limitation in the source phase while maintaining selectivity
  • enabling and enhancing strategies for critical materials recovery from natural and unconventional feedstocks; for water and environmental management of heavy elements and nuclear waste; and for carbon removal from low-concentration sources
  • understanding non-thermal mechanisms that have the potential to drive efficient and selective energy-relevant separations, such as electromagnetic, magneto-reactive, and other means to affect transport and bonding selectively
  • discovering and advancing strategies for removal of dilute constituents from a mixture, including but not limited to reactive separation approaches
  • generating specific and long-range interactions among trace constituents with the aim of promoting nucleation of a new phase that is enriched in the target species
  • discovering novel approaches for dehydration of heterogeneous systems without the application of heat
  • designing separation systems that have high selectivity, capacity, and throughput
  • understanding temporal changes that occur in separation systems

Based on programmatic priorities, the Separation Science program does not support the following areas: applied research; engineering design or scale-up; development of narrowly defined processes or devices; desalination; microfluidics; sensors; or research directed toward medical or pharmaceutical applications.  The program does not support the synthesis or testing of separations materials as the main goal, as such is covered under other core research areas.

To obtain more information about this research area, please see our Core Research Area descriptions, and the proceedings of our Principal Investigators' Meetings. To better understand how this research area fits within the Department of Energy's Office of Science, please refer to the Basic Energy Science's organization chart and budget request.

For more information about this research area, please contact Dr. Daniel Matuszak.