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Catalysis

Important information for proposers

All proposals must be submitted in accordance with the requirements specified in this funding opportunity and in the NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) that is in effect for the relevant due date to which the proposal is being submitted. It is the responsibility of the proposer to ensure that the proposal meets these requirements. Submitting a proposal prior to a specified deadline does not negate this requirement.

Supports fundamental research on critical challenges and opportunities in catalysts and catalytic reactions for chemicals, energy and other applications.

Synopsis

The Catalysis program is part of the Chemical Process Systems cluster, which also includes: 1) the Electrochemical Systems program; 2) the Interfacial Engineering program; and 3) the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics program.

The goals of the Catalysis program are to increase fundamental understanding in catalytic engineering science and to advance the development of catalysts and catalytic reactions that are beneficial to society. Research should focus on critical challenges and opportunities in both new and proven catalysis technologies. Areas of emphasis may include novel catalyst compositions, structures, operating environment, data science tools, theory, and modeling – preferably in various combinations as dictated by the specific reaction and related knowledge and technology gaps. Target applications include fuels, specialty and bulk chemicals, environmental catalysis, biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals, greenhouse gas mitigation, recycling of waste materials, generation of solar hydrogen, as well as efficient routes to energy utilization.

Heterogeneous catalysis represents the main thrust of the program. Proposals related to both gas-solid and liquid-solid heterogeneous catalysis are welcome, as are proposals that incorporate concepts from homogeneous catalysis. Recent research trends have highlighted the need for evaluation of catalyst performance and properties under working conditions, especially as supported by advanced in situ and in operando characterization methods. Catalyst synthesizability and stability present additional research opportunities given the harsh operating environments of many catalytic processes.    

Topic areas of particular interest include:

  • Energy-related catalysis, utilizing renewable or sustainable energy in lieu of thermal, fossil fuel-based technologies, especially applications in electrocatalysis, photocatalysis, and catalytic conversion of biomass-derived chemicals, and also including fuel cell catalysis.
  • Catalysis aimed at closing the carbon cycle (especially conversion of carbon dioxide, methane, and natural gas to fuels and chemical intermediates).
  • Heterogeneous catalytic alternatives to traditionally non-catalytic or homogeneous reaction processes, as well as new catalyst designs for established catalytic processes.  
  • Environmental catalysis focused on mitigating both air and water pollutants, and supporting energy-efficient upcycling of waste materials to higher-value products.
  • Catalytic remediation of feedstocks, process streams, products, or effluents.
  • Commercially scalable methods of catalyst synthesis, including durable, poison-resistant, and easily regenerable catalyst formulations and designs.
  • New catalytic materials and architectures (especially those substituting earth-abundant materials for precious and noble metal catalysts).
  • Basic understanding of catalytic materials, reaction pathways, kinetics, and surface reaction mechanisms.
  • Advanced tools for catalyst characterization and theoretical/computational catalysis.

Proposals that deal with new catalytic materials, especially when viewed in light of the inherent complexity of heterogeneous catalytic reactions, will be enhanced by including plans to assess: 1) reproducibility and repeatability of data, 2) stability under realistic operating conditions including start-up and shut-down cycles, 3) performance relative to standard or well-known reference materials, and 4) quantitative, well-accepted measures of catalyst activity, selectivity, and catalytic efficiency, such as turnover frequencies, quantum and/or photon yields of photocatalysts, Faradaic efficiency of electrocatalytic reactions, and detailed product analyses and mass balances for the targeted application.

NOTE: Proposals that focus on 1) molecular or homogeneous catalysis, 2) the surface science of catalysis, 3) photo redox catalysis, 4) catalytic organic synthesis reactions, and/or 5) fine chemical synthesis and pharmaceutical applications of catalysis may be more appropriately submitted to the Chemical Catalysis program.(CHE 6884) in the Division of Chemistry in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences. Proposals focused on biocatalytic processes, including proposals focusing on enzyme engineering, cellular and biomolecular processes, should be submitted to the Cellular and Biochemical Engineering program (CBET 1491). If the proposal focuses on reaction engineering aspects of catalytic processes, submit to the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics program (CBET 1403). Projects that are interdisciplinary in nature may be jointly funded with other CBET and NSF programs. Program directors will review the submissions and may transfer your proposal to give it the best review situation.

Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas may be considered.  However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the Principal Investigator contact the program director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.

INFORMATION COMMON TO MOST CBET PROGRAMS

Proposals should address the novelty and/or potentially transformative nature of the proposed work compared to previous work in the field. Also, it is important to address why the proposed work is important in terms of engineering science, as well as to also project the potential impact on society and/or industry of success in the research. The novelty or potentially transformative nature of the research should be included, as a minimum, in the Project Summary of each proposal.

The duration of unsolicited proposal awards in CBET is generally up to three years.  Single-investigator award budgets typically include support for one graduate student (or equivalent) and up to one month of principal investigator time per year (awards for multiple investigator projects are typically larger). Proposal budgets that are much larger than typical should be discussed with the program director prior to submission. Proposers can view budget amounts and other information from recent awards made by this program via the ?What Has Been Funded (Recent Awards Made Through This Program, with Abstracts)? link towards the bottom of this page.

Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program proposals are strongly encouraged. Award duration is five years. The submission deadline for Engineering CAREER proposals is in July every year. Learn more in the CAREER program description

Proposals for Conferences, Workshops, and Supplements: PIs are strongly encouraged to discuss their requests with the rogram director before submission of the proposal.

Grants for Rapid Response Research (RAPID) and EArly-concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) are also considered when appropriate. Please note that proposals of these types must be discussed with the program director before submission. Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI) proposals that integrate fundamental research with translational results and are consistent with the application areas of interest to each program are also encouraged. Please note that RAPID, EAGER, and GOALI proposals can be submitted anytime during the year. Details about RAPID, EAGER, and GOALI are available in theProposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG), Part 1, Chapter II, Section E: Types of Proposals.

COMPLIANCE: Proposals which are not compliant with the Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG) will be returned without review. 

Program contacts

Robert McCabe
RMCCABE@nsf.gov (703) 292-4826 ENG/CBET
Catherine Walker
cawalker@nsf.gov (703) 292-7125 ENG/CBET

Awards made through this program

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