NSF News

NSF addresses chemical research challenges through centers for chemical innovation

Solutions to challenges in chemical research could transform advanced manufacturing, clean energy, quantum computing and biotechnology. The U.S. National Science Foundation is advancing research at Centers for Chemical Innovation in areas such as materials chemistry, synthesized polymers and sustainable plastics, to name a few.

NSF is investing $60 million in Centers for Chemical Innovation to expand their research and education goals. David Berkowitz, director of the Division of Chemistry, stated, "These centers are transforming the way we do science by engaging highly interdisciplinary, multi-institutional teams to take on grand challenges in the field. If successful, they will generate truly disruptive technologies in the future."

  • Center for Synthetic Organic Electrochemistry anchored at University of Utah addresses advanced manufacturing. The nine research partners explore applications for novel electrochemical reactions in organic synthesis and materials chemistry. Improved conditions and efficiency for such reactions benefit researchers in academia, the pharmaceutical industry, personal care products and fine chemicals manufacturing.
  • Center for Genetically Encoded Materials led by University of California, Berkeley, works at the intersection of chemistry, biology and materials science. With six partners at other universities and a research hospital, their goal is to synthesize polymers inspired by nature's construction machinery -- the ribosome. Newly designed polymers and properties open new opportunities in information storage, sensor development, drug discovery and even textiles.
  • Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology at University of Wisconsin-Madison, is being renewed. The center's 13 institutional partners focus on characterizing nanomaterials with applications from improved batteries and electronics to targeted medicines.

Another three centers complete the cohort, tackling topics such as advanced catalytic and synthetic chemistry, aerosols in the environment, and sustainable plastics.

Collectively, NSF is supporting more than 150 researchers, postdocs and students at research universities, primarily undergraduate institutions, minority-serving institutions, nonprofit research organizations and a federal lab.

The centers engage in educational outreach by leading science activities in the community, building online puzzle games, and training STEM Ambassadors.

More information about Centers for Chemical Innovation can be found on the NSF website or Centers website, as well as a full list of awards made in fiscal year 2020.