WASHINGTON, DC - Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham today kicked off the Department of Energy’s longest running student-teacher research grant program, the University Coal Research Program, which begins its 26th year this week with the release of a solicitation calling on the Nation’s colleges and universities to propose new projects to enhance the long-term use of coal.
The call supports the Energy Department’s continued commitment to solving energy and environmental challenges as it seeks clean, efficient, and competitively priced coal-derived products and low-cost energy systems. The program will make available nearly $3 million for projects that explore ways to use coal while protecting the environment.
Academic institutions can submit proposals in one of three categories:
- The Core Program will provide up to $1.6 million for projects that complement ongoing applied research in the Department’s Fossil Energy program;
- The Innovative Concepts Phase I Program will offer $400,000 to projects using out-of-the-box ideas that might lead to future breakthroughs; and,
- The Innovative Concepts Phase II Program could provide up to $600,000 to promising projects that were previously supported with Phase I funding.
Projects proposed in the Core Program will be eligible for grants ranging from $80,000 for a one-year project to $200,000 for a three-year project sponsored by a single university. Universities that team with at least two other academic institutions, or with at least one other university and an industrial partner, will be eligible for larger grants, up to $400,000.
As in prior years, the Core Program requires that a teaching professor team up with at least one student who is working toward a degree in science or engineering. More than 1,600 students have received hands-on research experience in the University Coal Research Program to date.
A major focus of this year’s Core Program is exploratory research that could benefit President Bush’s FutureGen initiative, the world’s first integrated sequestration and hydrogen production research power plant. The Energy Department anticipates funding at least one proposal in each of six focus areas within the Core Program:
- Materials for Advanced Fossil Energy Systems -- New materials, ideas, and concepts are being sought to improve the performance and reduce the costs of existing advanced power systems, or to enable the development of new systems and capabilities for coal combustion and coal gasification, gas separation, hydrogen storage, high-temperature fuel cells, and advanced turbine systems;
- Multi-Pollutant Controls by OxyCombustion -- A combustion-modification approach using a mixture of oxygen and carbon dioxide as the oxidant potentially enables cost-effective carbon mitigation from coal-fired power plants. Approaches are invited to experimentally demonstrate the multi-pollutant control potential of oxygen;
- Novel Sensors for Slagging Coal Gasification Systems -- Novel sensors and control systems are needed to support the full-scale implementation and operation of advanced power generation technologies. Novel applications are sought to determine the integrity and thickness of refractory used in slagging coal gasification systems;
- Electrically Conductive, Low-Temperature Sintering Materials for Cathode and Interconnect Contact in Solid Oxide Fuel Cells -- Syngas derived from coal in FutureGen power plants presents technical challenges for solid oxide fuel cells. Applications are sought for the development and characterization of an electrical contact zone material capable of relieving stress at the cathode and interconnect contact interfaces;
- Partitioning and Mechanism Studies for Mercury and Associated Trace Metals Within Coal-Fired Processes -- Understanding mercury chemistry and process-related speciation mechanisms and transformations is a necessary step in developing mercury-removal processes for advanced power systems. Grant applications using statistical analysis of identified parameters are sought to further understand partitioning and chemistry of mercury, other trace metals, and organic substances in advanced power systems; and,
- Water Impacts from Coal-Burning Power Plants -- Thermoelectric power generation is a water-intensive process that requires, on a national basis, almost as much freshwater as does irrigation. Constraints on freshwater resources and competition from other use sectors will challenge the Nation’s ability to provide sufficient water to meet current and future power generation needs. Grant applications are sought to further research for improving water quality associated with coal-fired power generation.
In the Innovative Concepts Phase I Program, researchers could receive up to $50,000 for one-year feasibility studies of concepts that offer dramatic improvements in the way coal is used, rather than incremental improvements over today’s systems. The program is particularly interested in seeing grant applications covering five innovative topics:
- Joining and sealing high-temperature gas separation membranes;
- Computational chemistry in support of hydrogen from coal;
- Hydrogen production and separation;
- Characterizing health-relevant fine particulate emissions from coal-fired utility boilers; and,
- Turbine combustion chemical kinetics.
In addition to the Core Program and the Innovative Concepts Phase I Program, researchers who received Phase I innovative concept grants in fiscal year 2003 can apply for follow-on Phase II funding if their research projects have shown sufficient promise.
The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) issued the request for proposals on October 18, 2004. Proposals are due by November 30, 2004, and winning projects will be named in July 2005.