Energy Commits $30 Million to Advance Quantum Tech at Its Nanoscale-Focused User Facilities
Other investments are also on the horizon, a federal official confirmed.
With strategic aims to drive new breakthroughs in quantum information science, the Energy Department recently launched a funding opportunity to award $30 million across its Nanoscale Science Research Centers, or NSRCs.
Those five national user facilities host more than 3,700 researchers from academia, national laboratories and industry each year—supporting studies into matter at an extraordinarily small scale.
“They provide world-class synthesis and characterization tools key to quantum materials and quantum information device fabrication,” DOE Office of Science’s Associate Director for Basic Energy Sciences, or BES, Dr. Linda Horton told Nextgov in an email Wednesday. “This research program will push the tools and capabilities into new areas, promoting forefront opportunities for innovation in QIS research.”
She also shed a little light on other funding opportunities that might surface this year.
Through the emerging field of QIS, scientists seek to harness intricate properties of extremely tiny particles to pave the way for game-changing new approaches to computing, sensing, communication, metrology and more. It aligns well with the overall mission of Energy’s BES program, which formally issued this funding opportunity. According to the announcement, BES’ aim “is to support fundamental research to understand, predict, and ultimately control matter and energy at the electronic, atomic, and molecular levels to provide the foundations for new energy technologies and to support DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security.”
Specifically, proposals will be accepted from officials within Energy’s: Center for Functional Nanomaterials at Brookhaven National Laboratory; Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, jointly managed by Sandia National Laboratory and Los Alamos Laboratory; Center for Nanophase Materials Sciences at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Center for Nanoscale Materials at Argonne National Laboratory; and Molecular Foundry at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
The department estimates award sizes ranging from $1 million and $2.5 million per year, potentially over three years for research projects proposed to promote the production of quantum-specific scientific capabilities and boost the infrastructure at those facilities. This might include “equipment support for new advanced metrology, synthesis, and fabrication capabilities that can observe, control, and integrate quantum phenomena relevant” across a variety of realms, the 42-page funding opportunity noted. The funds are rooted in this fiscal year’s appropriation for the NSRCs and awards will be based on peer review.
“Ultimately, this announcement’s goal is to develop a flexible and enabling infrastructure to accelerate the scientific community’s research in nanoscience,” officials wrote in the document.
The deadline for pre-proposal applications is April 6, and final submissions are due June 1.
“User facility capabilities for QIS are only one part of the Office of Science vision for QIS research,” Horton explained in the email with Nextgov.
She noted that the office serves as an “integral partner” in the U.S. National Quantum Initiative—and on top of steering contributions across the QIS ecosystem, also leads five DOE National QIS Research Centers among a large-scale, federal effort.
“The aim of the Centers, coupled with DOE’s core research portfolio, is to create and to steward the ecosystem needed to foster and facilitate advancement of QIS, with major anticipated national impact on national security, economic competitiveness, and America’s continued leadership in science,” Horton said.
Each of those hubs incorporates a collaborative research team spanning multiple scientific and engineering disciplines and multiple institutions and intends to integrate the science and technology innovation chain to accelerate progress, help build a robust quantum workforce, and facilitate technology transfer as applications inch closer to becoming fully realized.
Horton also confirmed that additional QIS-driving funding opportunities will likely be coming in 2021. Some might focus on innovation in materials- and chemistry-based research.
“Also, we will have funding announcements in the area of quantum networking,” she said. “Beyond this, there is significant excitement around the integration of the core research activities with the teams in the National QIS Centers as these launch their research program and development of unique capabilities.”