As world demand for energy rapidly expands, transforming the way we generate, supply, transmit, store, and use energy will be one of the defining challenges for America and the globe in the 21st century. At its heart, the challenge is a scientific one. Important as they are, incremental advances in current energy technologies will not be sufficient. History has demonstrated that radically new technologies arise from disruptive advances at the science frontiers. The Energy Frontier Research Centers program aims to accelerate such transformative discovery, combining the talents and creativity of our national scientific workforce with a powerful new generation of tools for penetrating, understanding, and manipulating matter on the atomic and molecular scales.
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In August 2009, the Office of Basic Energy Sciences in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science established 46 Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs). These Centers involve universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and for-profit firms, singly or in partnerships, and were selected by scientific peer review and funded at $2-5 million per year for a 5-year initial award period. These integrated, multi-investigator Centers will conduct fundamental research focusing on one or more of several “grand challenges” and use-inspired “basic research needs” recently identified in major strategic planning efforts by the scientific community. The purpose of these Centers will be to integrate the talents and expertise of leading scientists in a setting designed to accelerate research toward meeting our critical energy challenges. The EFRCs will harness the most basic and advanced discovery research in a concerted effort to establish the scientific foundation for a fundamentally new U.S. energy economy. The outcome will decisively enhance U.S. energy security and protect the global environment in the century ahead.