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Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular 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This document has been archived.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 Process Systems, Reaction Engineering and Molecular Thermodynamics (PRM) program is to advance fundamental engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of important classes of catalyzed and uncatalyzed chemical reactions as they relate to the design, production, and application of catalysts, chemical processes, biochemical processes, and specialized materials that have important impacts on society.  The program seeks to advance electrochemical and photochemical processes of engineering significance or with commercial potential, design and optimization of complex chemical and biochemical processes, thermodynamic modeling and experiments that relate molecular dynamics to macroscopic properties and behavior, dynamic modeling and control of process systems and individual process units, reactive processing of polymers/ceramics/thin films, and interactions between chemical reactions and transport processes in reactive systems, for the integration of this information into the design of complex chemical and biochemical reactors.  A substantial focus of the PRM program is to impact the chemical manufacturing enterprise by funding projects aimed at zero emissions and environmentally-friendly, smart manufacturing using sustainable materials.  Areas that focus on reactors of all types (fuel cells, batteries, microreactors, biochemical reactors, etc.), reactor design in general, and design and control of all systems associated with energy from renewable sources have a high priority for funding.  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 complex chemical and biochemical reactors.  Focus areas include non-traditional reactor systems such as membrane reactors, microreactors, and reactions in supercritical fluids; novel activation techniques such as plasmas, acoustics, and microwaves; and multifunctional systems synthesis such as "smart" molecules, "chemical laboratory on a chip," "chemical factory on a chip" concepts, bioreactor design and bioprocess optimization, and fermentation technology.  The program also supports new approaches for generating energy from renewable resources as well as optimizing new approaches in all areas such as developing atomic layer deposition for microelectronic devices.
  • Process Design and Control: These areas encompass the design and control of process systems and individual process units.  High priority research topics include new process intensification (PI) and smart manufacturing (SM) paradigms.  Some specific focus areas in PI include: methods for novel design including the identification of new intensified pathways, synthesis, design and control integrated with sustainability; the ability to capture uncertainty; scale-up of intensified units; and consideration of operational complexity and control at the design stage.  For further developments in SM, some specific topics may be: designing simple robust controllers for large-scale, hierarchical distributed and complex systems (controllers that may be also be able to incorporate large volumes of industrially available unstructured data); focus on centralized vs. decentralized control; developing models that capture emergent behavior; interfaces between models; and developing theory and algorithms for the design and control of fault-tolerant, stochastic, nonlinear hybrid systems.  Also of interest are system approaches that span and optimize across multiple scales in materials, time and space, from nano (atomic, seconds) to mega (plant-wide, hours/years), and integrate optimized intensified enterprise-wide processes involved in planning, scheduling and control, as well as the globalization of potential industrial applications. 
  • Reactive Polymer Processing: Program scope is limited in the polymerization area to research that integrates synthesis (chemical reaction of monomers to form polymer chains or complexes) and processing steps (steps that orient and anneal polymer melts and affect the long range conformations and consequently their properties).  Typical projects are, for example, in the areas of emulsion and miniemulsion polymerization for use in paints and coatings.  The program focus is on addressing environmental concerns while producing tailor-made molecules and materials.
  • Molecular Thermodynamics: Proposed research may use knowledge of thermodynamics and molecular theory to improve the design of new and novel functional materials such as polymers, solvents, and colloids for use as, for example, sensors. It may also include computational screening of chemicals and/or materials for desirable properties, employ computer simulation and visualization techniques, computational chemistry techniques, etc., with the ultimate goal of more economic and environmentally benign processing, improved water quality, and new materials for use in biomedical applications.

NOTE: For PRM proposals involving aspects of sustainable chemistry, consider making proposal submissions to this program (1403) with the Proposal Title as: â€˜SusChEM: Title of Your Proposal'.  For more information on SusChEM-related proposals please click here.  The same applies for proposals involving sustainable engineering.

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 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.

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

Program contacts

Triantafillos Mountziaris
tmountzi@nsf.gov (703) 292-4641

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