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.

Our basic energy sciences projects and their NREL principal investigators (PIs) are listed below.

Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences

Solar photochemistry (Garry Rumbles)

Photosynthetic energy transduction (Paul W. King)

Mechanism of photochemical N2 reduction (Paul W. King)

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

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

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

Cell-type specific pectins in plant cell walls (led by University of Georgia; Vivek Bharadwaj)

Beyond-density functional theory electrochemistry with accelerated and solvated techniques (led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; Derek Vigil Fowler).

Materials Science and Engineering

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

Ab initio theory of unconventional superconductivity (Mark van Schilfgaarde)

Disorder in topological semimetals (Kirstin Alberi)

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

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

Degradation mechanisms of aminopolymers used in direct air capture (led by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Wade Braunecker)

Formulation engineering of energy materials via multiscale learning spirals (led by Cornell University; David Moore).

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, and Molecularly Engineered Energy 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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The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science Basic Energy Sciences Program funds NREL’s basic science research.


Bill Tumas

Basic Energy Sciences Point of Contact