The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $175 million for 68 research and development projects aimed at developing disruptive technologies to strengthen the nation’s advanced energy enterprise. Led by DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the OPEN 2021 program prioritizes funding high-impact, high-risk technologies that support novel approaches to clean energy challenges. DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory was awarded $7.8 million for three projects.
The selected projects — spanning 22 states and coordinated at universities, national laboratories and private companies — will advance technologies for a wide range of areas, including electric vehicles, offshore wind, storage and nuclear recycling. These investments support President Biden’s climate goals to increase production of domestic clean energy technology, strengthen the nation’s energy security and uplift the economy by creating good-paying jobs.
“Universities, companies, and our national labs are doubling down on advancing clean energy technology innovation and manufacturing in America to deliver critical energy solutions from renewables to fusion energy to tackle the climate crisis,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s investments show our commitment to empowering innovators to develop bold plans to help America achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, create clean energy good-paying jobs and strengthen our energy independence.”
The selected projects will focus on technologies such as revolutionizing fuel cells for light- and heavy-duty vehicles, and technologies to generate less nuclear waste and reduce the cost of fuel. Argonne’s OPEN 2021 project teams include:
Non-Neutron Transmutation of Used Nuclear Fuel:
This project will develop a technology that supports the establishment of commercially viable, dispatchable, zero-carbon nuclear energy for the future clean energy market. Partners: Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Michigan; University of California, Berkeley; Idaho National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory. (Award amount: $3,000,000.)
Advanced Facility Design and Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning Enabled Safeguards to Establish Secure, Economical Recycling of Fast Reactor Fuels:
This project will develop crucial technologies to support the commercialization and licensing of pyroprocessing that enables the recovery and recycling of valuable nuclear materials from advanced reactor used nuclear fuel. Partner: Oklo. (Award amount: $3,600,000.)
A Zero-Emission Process for Direct Reduction of Iron by Hydrogen Plasma in a Rotary Kiln Reactor:
This research seeks to disrupt the steel industry by developing a potentially zero-carbon ironmaking process that eliminates the use of coke or natural gas and requires less energy than current processes. Partners: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and ArcelorMittal. (Award amount: $1,200,000.)
“Argonne is committed to accelerating climate change solutions, which will help drive U.S. prosperity and security,” said Argonne Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and Technology Stephen Streiffer. “As part of this effort, our researchers are transforming how we reuse nuclear fuels, design reactor safeguards, and manufacture zero-carbon steel. These scientific innovations wouldn’t be possible without ARPA-E’s support for clean-energy technology.”
For the full selectee list and more detailed project descriptions, visit the ARPA-E OPEN 2021 webpage.
Among the first of billions of dollars for research and development opportunities that DOE announced last year to address the climate crisis, OPEN 2021 is ARPA-E’s latest installment of the OPEN program. The first four iterations — 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018 — awarded over $600 million in funding to 225 projects working to achieve breakthroughs in commercializing a variety of energy solutions, including in the development of transformative solar, geothermal, batteries, biofuels and advanced surface coating technologies. Two examples of earlier awardees are Soraa, a world leader in more efficient lighting technology, and Sunfolding, a company facilitating cost and performance breakthroughs for stakeholders across the solar energy industry.
Since its founding in 2009, ARPA-E has provided $2.93 billion in R&D funding, and ARPA-E projects have attracted more than $7.6 billion in private sector follow-on funding to commercialize clean energy technologies and create sustainable clean energy jobs. Previous ARPA-E awardees have also gone on to achieve breakthroughs in commercializing a variety of energy solutions, including in the development of transformative solar, geothermal, batteries, biofuels and advanced surface coating technologies.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation’s first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America’s scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit https://energy.gov/science.