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Status: Archived

Archived funding opportunity

This document has been archived. See PD 20-7909 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 Nano-Biosensing program is part of the Engineering Biology and Health cluster, which includes also 1) Cellular and Biochemical Engineering; 2) Engineering of Biomedical Systems; 3) Biophotonics; and 4) Disability and Rehabilitation Engineering.

The Nano-Biosensing program supports fundamental engineering research on devices and methods for measurement and quantification of biological analytes. Proposals that incorporate emerging nanotechnology methods are especially encouraged. Areas of interest include:

  • Multi-purpose sensor platforms that exceed the performance of current state-of-the-art devices.
  • Novel transduction principles, mechanisms and sensor designs suitable for measurement in practical matrix and sample-preparation-free approaches. These include error-free detection of pathogens and toxins in food matrices, waterborne pathogens, parasites, toxins, biomarkers in body fluids, and others that improve human condition.
  • Nano-biosensors that enable measurement of biomolecular interactions in their native states, transmembrane transport, intracellular transport and reactions, and other biological phenomena.
  • Studies that examine intracellular measurements must include discussion on the significance of the measurement. 

Proposals should clearly identify the proposed problem to be solved, describe why the proposed approach is superior to current available methods, and articulate the benefit of solving the identified problem for the society at large. Sensor designs that yield reliable measurements are encouraged.  While sensitivity is important, it cannot be at the expense of reproducibility. Every application must include research strategies for addressing reproducibility of measurement and sensor response, as well as approaches that reduce errors.  The program does not support applications with incremental improvements of existing approaches and technologies.  Projects that do not include experimental characterization of sensor responses to biological analytes are discouraged, and may be returned without a review. Studies on surface functionalization and immobilization of bio-recognition molecules, and/or orientation of them are not encouraged.  Research that is focused on new recognition chemistry is also discouraged.

The novelty or potentially transformative nature of the research must be included in the Project Summary.  The last line in Project Summary must include three key phrases that describe: (1) sensor transduction principles, (2) type of biological analytes, (3) potential application areas.

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

NOTE: Projects related to water quality may be jointly supported with the Environmental Engineering program (CBET 1440). Photonic nanosensors with medical applications and/or imaging should be submitted to Biophotonics (CBET 7236). The Nano-Biosensing program does not support imaging applications.

The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years.  The typical award size for the program is approximately $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 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.

Program contacts

Chenzhong Li
chli@nsf.gov 703-292-4608

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