Transformative Opportunities Addressed by EFRCs

Transformative Opportunities

In 2014, the Department of Energy's Office of Science charged the Basic Energy Sciences Advisory Committee (BESAC) to assess the progress made on the five Grand Challenges identified in the 2007 BESAC report, Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination, and determine what new knowledge opportunities exist to advance energy science. The findings are given in a 2015 report, Challenges at the Frontiers of Matter and Energy: Transformative Opportunities for Discovery Science. This report highlights striking recent discoveries made in pursuit of the Grand Challenges that open compelling new research directions with the potential to transform the methods, reach, and impact of energy science and technology. It also presents five new Transformative Opportunities that reflect the breakthrough potential of research supported by the Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES).  Each Energy Frontier Research Center addresses one or more of these transformative opportunities. Past EFRCs, active in 2014-2020, who have self-identified as addressing each transformative opportunity are listed below.


Mastering Hierarchical Architectures and Beyond-Equilibrium Matter

Transformative Opportunity #1: Mastering Hierarchical Architectures and Beyond-Equilibrium Matter

A new horizon for materials design is the opportunity to precisely control the placement of atoms in order to form desirable hierarchical structures, which, in turn, deliver novel properties. Of particular promise is the ability to predict and control non-equilibrium structures which are prevalent in nature in synthetic systems.

Years Lead Institution Director(s) Center Name
2009-2018 Carnegie Institution of Washington Ho-kwang Mao (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Russell Hemley (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Energy Frontier Research in Extreme Environments (Efree)
2009-2018 Los Alamos National Laboratory Victor Klimov Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP)
2009-2018 Purdue University Maureen McCann Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels (C3Bio)
2009-2018 University of Notre Dame Peter Burns Materials Science of Actinides (MSA)
2009-2018 Washington University in St. Louis Robert Blankenship Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC)
2009-2020 Argonne National Laboratory Michael Thackeray (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Paul Fenter (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Center for Electrical Energy Storage (CEES) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Center for Electrochemical Energy Science (CEES) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020)
2009-2020 Northwestern University Michael Wasielewski Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center (ANSER) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2018); Center for Light Energy Activated Redox Processes (LEAP) (8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020)
2009-2020 University of California, Berkeley Berend Smit (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Jeffrey Long (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Center for Gas Separations (CGS)
2009-2020 University of Maryland Gary Rubloff Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES)
2014-2020 National Renewable Energy Laboratory William Tumas Center for Next Generation of Materials Design (CNGMD)
2014-2020
Oak Ridge National Laboratory Yanwen Zhang
Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE)

Understanding the Critical Roles of Heterogeneity, Interfaces, and Disorder

Transformative Opportunity #2: Beyond Ideal Materials and Systems: Understanding the Critical Roles of Heterogeneity, Interfaces, and Disorder

Real materials contain heterogeneity, interfaces, and disorder, which proliferate at the mesoscale and often control the macroscopic behavior of materials. Advances in simulation, synthesis, and characterization hold the promise of moving beyond the familiar ideal homogeneous systems to master these structural complexities, turning "defects" into new design tools. Such advances can lead to a transformative impact in energy materials used for solar and nuclear power, hydraulic fracturing, power conversion, airframes, and batteries.

Years Lead Institution Director(s) Center Name
2009-2018 California Institute of Technology Harry Atwater (8/1/2009-1/30/2015); Ralph Nuzzo (2/1/2015 - 7/31/2018) Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion (LMI)
2009-2018 Carnegie Institution of Washington Ho-kwang Mao (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Russell Hemley (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Energy Frontier Research in Extreme Environments (Efree)
2009-2018 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Donald DePaolo Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2 (NCGC) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Center for Nanoscale Controls on Geologic CO2 (NCGC) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018)
2009-2018 Los Alamos National Laboratory Victor Klimov Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP)
2009-2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Marc Baldo Center for Excitonics (CE)
2009-2018 University of Notre Dame Peter Burns Materials Science of Actinides (MSA)
2009-2018 University of Texas at Austin Gary Pope (8/1/2009 - 6/30/2013); Steven Bryant (7/1/2013 - 8/30/2014); Larry Lake (9/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES)
2009-2018 Washington University in St. Louis Robert Blankenship Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC)
2014-2018 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Robert Finley (8/1/2015 - 4/15/2015); Scott Frailey (4/16/2015 - 7/31/2018) Center for Geologic Storage of CO2 (GSCO2)
2009-2020 Argonne National Laboratory   
Michael Thackeray (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Paul Fenter (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Center for Electrical Energy Storage (CEES) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Center for Electrochemical Energy Science (CEES) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020)
2009-2020 Stony Brook University (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Binghamton University (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Clare Grey (8/1/2009 - 6/17/2011); M. Stanley Whittingham (6/18/2011 - 7/31/2020) NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage (NECCES)
2009-2020 Northwestern University Michael Wasielewski Argonne-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center (ANSER) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2018); Center for Light Energy Activated Redox Processes (LEAP) (8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020)
2009-2020 University of California, Berkeley Berend Smit (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Jeffrey Long (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Center for Gas Separations (CGS)
2009-2020 University of Maryland Gary Rubloff Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES)
2009-2020 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Thomas J. Meyer (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2018); Gerald Meyer (8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020) Center for Solar Fuels (UNC) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2018); Alliance for Molecular PhotoElectrode Design for Solar Fuels (AMPED)(8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020)
2014-2020 National Renewable Energy Laboratory William Tumas Center for Next Generation of Materials Design (CNGMD)
2014-2020 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Yanwen Zhang Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE)
2014-2020 Temple University John Perdew Center for the Computational Design of Functional Layered Materials (CCDM) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018); Center for Complex Materials from First Principles (CCM)(8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020)
2014-2020 University of California, Riverside Jing Shi Spins and Heat in Nanoscale Electronic Systems (SHINES)

Harnessing Coherence in Light and Matter

Transformative Opportunity #3: Harnessing Coherence in Light and Matter

Coherence in quantum mechanical phenomena is a powerful force with direct far-reaching macroscopic implications. Recent advances have greatly enhanced our ability to observe and control coherence in both light and matter. Success in developing and exploiting these advances could revolutionize fields as diverse as information processing, sensor technology, and energy generation through the control of the outcome of chemical reactions or the instantaneous state of a material.

Years Lead Institution Director(s) Center Name
2009-2018 California Institute of Technology Harry Atwater (8/1/2009-1/30/2015); Ralph Nuzzo (2/1/2015 - 7/31/2018) Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion (LMI)
2009-2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Marc Baldo Center for Excitonics (CE)
2009-2018 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Gang Chen Solid-State Solar-Thermal Energy Conversion Center (S3TEC)
2009-2018 Washington University in St. Louis Robert Blankenship Photosynthetic Antenna Research Center (PARC)

Revolutionary Advances in Models, Mathematics, Algorithms, Data, and Computing

Transformative Opportunity #4: Revolutionary Advances in Models, Mathematics, Algorithms, Data, and Computing

The convergence of recent rapid advances in theoretical, mathematical, computational, and experimental capabilities promises to transform our ability to find, predict, and control new materials and chemical processes; understand complex matter across a range of length and time scales; and steer experiments toward deep scientific insights.

Years Lead Institution Director(s) Center Name
2009-2018 California Institute of Technology Harry Atwater (8/1/2009-1/30/2015); Ralph Nuzzo (2/1/2015 - 7/31/2018) Light-Material Interactions in Energy Conversion (LMI)
2009-2018 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Donald DePaolo Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2 (NCGC) (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Center for Nanoscale Controls on Geologic CO2 (NCGC)(8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018)
2009-2018 Los Alamos National Laboratory Victor Klimov Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics (CASP)
2009-2018 University of Texas at Austin Gary Pope (8/1/2009 - 6/30/2013); Steven Bryant (7/1/2013 - 8/30/2014); Larry Lake (9/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES)
2014-2018 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Robert Finley (8/1/2015 - 4/15/2015); Scott Frailey (4/16/2015 - 7/31/2018) Center for Geologic Storage of CO2 (GSCO2)
2014-2020 National Renewable Energy Laboratory William Tumas Center for Next Generation of Materials Design (CNGMD)
2014-2020 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Yanwen Zhang Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE)
2014-2020 Temple University John Perdew Center for the Computational Design of Functional Layered Materials (CCDM) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018); Center for Complex Materials from First Principles (CCM) (8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020)
2014-2020 Montana State University (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018); Washington State University (8/1/2018 - 7/31/2020) John Peters Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis Center (BETCy)

Exploiting Transformative Advances in Imaging Capabilities across Multiple Scales

Transformative Opportunity #5: Exploiting Transformative Advances in Imaging Capabilities across Multiple Scales

The maxim "seeing is believing" captures the value of visual observation. Recent advances in imaging capabilities across multiple scales now allow us to directly see complex structures, chemistry, and dynamics that were previously invisible. Exploiting these new imaging tools in multimodal contexts, we can accelerate the discovery of new materials and functionalities, the understanding of combustion and other chemical processes, and the development of innovative approaches to materials synthesis.

Years Lead Institution Director(s) Center Name
2009-2018 Brookhaven National Laboratory Seamus Davis (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Peter Johnson (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Center for Emergent Superconductivity (CES)
2009-2018 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Donald DePaolo Center for Nanoscale Control of Geologic CO2 (NCGC)(8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Center for Nanoscale Controls on Geologic CO2 (NCGC) (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2018)
2009-2018 University of Texas at Austin Gary Pope (8/1/2009 - 6/30/2013); Steven Bryant (7/1/2013 - 8/30/2014); Larry Lake (9/1/2014 - 7/31/2018) Center for Frontiers of Subsurface Energy Security (CFSES)
2014-2018 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Robert Finley (8/1/2015 - 4/15/2015); Scott Frailey (4/16/2015 - 7/31/2018) Center for Geologic Storage of CO2 (GSCO2)
2009-2020 Stony Brook University (8/1/2009 - 7/31/2014); Binghamton University (8/1/2014 - 7/31/2020) Clare Grey (8/1/2009 - 6/17/2011); M. Stanley Whittingham (6/18/2011 - 7/31/2020) NorthEast Center for Chemical Energy Storage (NECCES)
2009-2020 University of Maryland Gary Rubloff Nanostructures for Electrical Energy Storage (NEES)
2014-2020 National Renewable Energy Laboratory William Tumas Center for Next Generation of Materials Design (CNGMD)
2014-2020 Oak Ridge National Laboratory Yanwen Zhang Energy Dissipation to Defect Evolution (EDDE)