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Interfacial Processes and Thermodynamics

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived.

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.


The goal of the Interfacial Processes and Thermodynamics (IPT) program is to advance fundamental molecular engineering at interfaces, especially as applied to the nano-processing of soft materials.  The program views fundamental interfacial interactions, molecular transport at interfaces, and molecular thermodynamics as integral to developing new approaches for solving critical engineering needs that face society. Molecules at interfaces, with functional interfacial properties, are of special interest, as these molecules have potential use in important research areas, such as adhesion and advanced manufacturing/fabrication.  These interfacial molecules may also have biomolecular functions at the micro- and nano-scale, where the biomolecular functionalities may be re-directed toward engineering solutions. One new area of interest is the adhesion between unlike materials, or adhesion in adverse environments, with particular emphasis on applying strategies arising from nature.  Research supported in these fundamental areas should lead to more economical and environmentally benign processing, improved water quality, and novel functional materials for sensors, in industrial, environmental, and biomedical settings.  Nanotechnology plays a critical role in most of these new areas.

Interfacial processes and materials of interest include:

  • Materials that form through either self-assembly or template-directed assembly.
  • Materials driven primarily by thermodynamic intermolecular forces, although the processes may be influenced by flow and electrical forces.
  • Interfacial processes that are supplemented by weak interactions.

The program also supports complex simulations of molecular systems at interfaces, with these simulations preferably done in conjunction with experimental comparisons: 

  • New theories and complex simulation approaches for determining the transport and thermodynamic properties of fluid mixtures in biological and other fluids.
  • Complex molecular interactions at either the interfaces, in membranes, or in a nano-environment.

The IPT program is also interested in developing special materials used in developing new Biosensing Systems and Technologies.  In this regard, the IPT program and the Nano-Biosensing program may jointly support novel projects related to surface functionalization at the molecular level.

Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas can be considered.  However, the PI should contact the Program Director, prior to submission, to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years.  The average unsolicited annual award size for the program is around $110,000.  Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, will be returned without review.  Small equipment proposals up to $25,000 will also be considered and may be submitted during the annual submission window.


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.

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. Please see the CAREER URL here for more information.

Proposals for Conferences, Workshops, and Supplements: PIs are strongly encouraged to discuss their requests with the Program 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.  Further details are available in the Proposal and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) download found here.  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 GOALI proposals must be submitted during the annual unsolicited proposal window for each program. More information on GOALI can be found here

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

Unsolicited proposals received outside of the Announced Proposal Window dates will be returned without review.

Program contacts

Nora F. Savage
nosavage@nsf.gov (703) 292-7949 ENG/CBET

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