Basic Energy Sciences

NREL's basic energy sciences programs balance use-inspired and discovery R&D to provide underpinning knowledge and understanding for energy conversion and technologies.

Our programs include core projects, Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs), and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Early Career Research Program awardees.

To develop solutions for renewable energy conversion and storage and related technologies, we utilize NREL's strong capabilities in semiconductors and materials science, nanomaterials synthesis and modification, synthesis and fabrication, photochemistry and advanced spectroscopy, and bioscience. These capabilities allow us to develop a better scientific understanding of molecular, nanoscale, semiconductor, and biological materials, systems, and processes.

Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences

We apply our crosscutting expertise in bioenergy and chemistry and nanoscience to tackle the following basic energy sciences research:

Solar photochemistry (principal investigator: Garry Rumbles)

Quantum information science: molecular control of spin-entangled triplet excitons (principal investigator: Justin Johnson)

Photosynthetic energy transduction (principal investigator: Paul W. King)

Mechanism of photochemical N2 reduction (principal investigator: Paul W. King)

Mechanistic determinants of Flavin-based electron bifurcation (Early Career Award; principal investigator: Cara Lubner)

Hierarchical scalable Green's function modeling of chemistry at interfaces (Computational Chemical Science Center; principal investigator: Mark van Schilfgaarde)

Beyond-density functional theory electrochemistry with accelerated and solvated techniques (principal investigator: Derek Vigil Fowler).

Materials Science and Engineering

Through materials science—materials growth and characterization coupled with theoretical modeling—we seek to understand and control fundamental electronic and optical processes in semiconductors. Our basic energy sciences research in this area includes:

Ab initio theory of unconventional superconductivity (principal investigator: Mark van Schilfgaarde)

Nitride materials and interfaces for radiation-hard integrated neutron detection (principal investigator: Nancy Haegel)

Disorder in topological semimetals (principal investigator: Kirstin Alberi)

Photophysical energy transfer for selective separations of critical lanthanides (principal investigator: Andrew Ferguson)

Harnessing order parameters in ternary II-IV-V2 semiconductors (Early Career Award; principal investigator: Adele Tamboli)

Kinetic synthesis of metastable nitrides (Early Career Award; principal investigator: Andriy Zakutayev)

Degradation mechanisms of aminopolymers used in direct air capture (principal investigator: Wade Braunecker).

Energy Frontier Research Centers

Previously, NREL led the Center for Next Generation Materials Design and the Center for Inverse Design. NREL participated in these EFRCs:

Biological Electron Transfer and Catalysis

Center for Advanced Solar Photophysics

Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels

Center for Interface Science: Solar Electric Materials

Center for Energy Efficient Materials

Molecularly Engineered Materials.

Fuels From Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub

NREL is part of the Liquid Sunlight Alliance (LiSA), a Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub. Watch the video about LiSA research at NREL.

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U.S. Department of Energy Support

NREL's basic science research supports the Department of Energy's Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences Program.


Bill Tumas

Basic Energy Sciences Point of Contact