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Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics

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 engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of chemical reactions, systems engineering, and molecular thermodynamics as they relate to the design and optimization of chemical reactors and the production of specialized materials.

Supports fundamental engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of chemical reactions, systems engineering, and molecular thermodynamics as they relate to the design and optimization of chemical reactors and the production of specialized materials.


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

The goal of the Process Systems, Reaction Engineering, and Molecular Thermodynamics program is to advance fundamental engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of chemical reactions, systems engineering, and molecular thermodynamics as they relate to the design and optimization of chemical reactors and the production of specialized materials that have important impacts on society. 

The program supports the development of advanced optimization and control algorithms for chemical processes, molecular and multi-scale modeling of complex chemical systems, fundamental studies on molecular thermodynamics, and the integration of these methods and concepts into the design of novel chemical products and manufacturing processes. This program supports sustainable chemical manufacturing research on the development of energy-efficient chemical processes and environmentally-friendly chemical products through concurrent chemical product/process design methods. Sustainability is also enhanced by research that promotes the electrification of the chemical process industries over current thermally-activated processes.

Proposals should focus on:

  • Chemical reaction engineering: This area encompasses the interaction of transport phenomena and kinetics in reactive systems and the use of this knowledge in the design of chemical reactors. Research areas include(1) development of novel reactor designs, such as catalytic and membrane reactors, micro-reactors, chemical vapor and atomic layer deposition systems, (2) studies of reactions in supercritical fluids, (3) novel reaction activation techniques such as atmospheric pressure plasmas (which may be submitted under the ECLIPSE meta-program) and microwave radiation, (4) design of multifunctional and intensified systems, such as chemical-factory/lab-on-a-chip concepts, (5) nanoparticle nucleation, growth, and surface functionalization, and (6) biomass conversion to fuels and chemicals. The program also supports new approaches that enable the design of modular chemical manufacturing systems such as distributed hydrogen and ammonia production processes.
  • Process design, optimization, and control: This area encompasses process systems science, including the development of process modeling, design, control and optimization theory and algorithms; process development proposals are not appropriate for this program. High-priority research topics include process intensification, modular process systems, smart manufacturing, large-scale carbon dioxide capture and conversion, computational tools (including those based on quantum computing methods) enabling advanced chemical manufacturing, real-time optimization and control of large-scale chemical systems with quantitative sustainability metrics, machine learning, and optimization of enterprise-wide processes involving planning, scheduling, and real-time control to create resilient supply chains.
  • Reactive polymer processing: Program scope in this area is limited to research that integrates synthesis and processing to engineer specific nanoscale structures and compositions to tune the macroscopic scale properties of polymers, such as their ability to biodegrade or to be recycled. The focus is on reactive processes that address these environmental concerns while producing tailor-made macromolecular materials.
  • Molecular thermodynamics: This area focuses on fundamental research that combines principles of classical thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and atomistic-scale simulations to improve chemical processing and to facilitate synthesis of novel functional materials such as catalysts, polymers, solvents, and colloids. Topics include fundamental studies on self- and directed-assembly of nanoscale-level patterned polymer films, machine-learning methods to predict structure-property relationships, large-ensemble molecular dynamics simulations, simulation of peptide self-assembly and protein interactions, and behavior of multiphase and reactive systems under nanoscale confinement. The ultimate goal of research supported by this program is to enable the development of more efficient chemical processes, improve environmental sustainability and water quality, and design functional materials with tailored properties.

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. Hypothesis-driven research plans are encouraged.


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 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. 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 and Award Policies and Procedures Guide (PAPPG) will be returned without review.

Program contacts

Rohit Ramachandran
rramacha@nsf.gov (703) 292-7258 ENG/CBET
Catherine Walker
cawalker@nsf.gov (703) 292-7125 ENG/CBET

Awards made through this program

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Map of recent awards made through this program