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Molecular Separations

Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See PD 23-1417 for the latest version.

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

The Molecular Separations program supports research focused on novel methods and materials for separation processes, such as those central to the chemical, biochemical, bioprocessing, materials, energy, and pharmaceutical industries. A fundamental understanding of the interfacial, transport, and thermodynamic behavior of multiphase chemical systems as well as quantitative descriptions of processing characteristics in the process-oriented industries is critical for efficient resource management and effective environmental protection. The program encourages proposals that address long standing challenges and emerging research areas and technologies, have a high degree of interdisciplinary work coupled with the generation of fundamental knowledge, and the integration of education and research.

Research topics of particular interest include fundamental, molecular-level work on:

  • A molecular-level design of scalable mass separating agents (e.g., adsorbents and membranes) targeted for a specific gas, chemical, or water separation
  • A molecular-level understanding of interfacial thermodynamics, fluid nanoconfinement, and/or transport within nanopores or highly engineered surfaces
  • Engineering science that advances a fundamental and/or a mechanistic understanding of mass transport principles and/or design of separation processes
  • Downstream processing of biologically derived chemicals for increased throughput
  • Integrated design of chemical separations with other chemical conversions for process intensification
  • Innovative separation mechanisms or engineering processes, including but not limited to field (flow, magnetic, electrical) induced separations, that target a significant reduction in energy and/or materials requirements in the process industries

NOTE: Field-based particle separations that advance fundamental transport principles with application to a novel separation problem will be considered, with co-review by this program and Particulate and Multiphase Processes (1415). Proposals concerning the separation of components from blood with simultaneous detection using sensors for biomedical diagnostics should be submitted to the Biosensing program (7909). Proposals that deal with deployment or improved performance of existing materials for water purification should be submitted to the Environmental Engineering program (1440).

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

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years. The typical award size for the program is around $100,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.



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 hereGrant 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.


Program contacts

Christina Payne
cpayne@nsf.gov (703) 292-2895 ENG/CBET

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