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U. S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Greater Research Opportunities (GRO) Program

Closed - for reference purposes only

Greater Research Opportunities: Research in Nanoscale Science Engineering and Technology

Sorting Code Numbers:
For Research Area 1 “Environmentally Benign Manufacturing & Processing” 2005-GO-A1
For Research Area 2 “Remediation/Treatment” 2005-GO-A2
For Research Area 3 “Sensors” 2005-GO-A3
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number: 66.515

Opening Date: June 29, 2004
Closing Date: October 14, 2004

Contact Person:

Technical Contact: Nora Savage; Phone: 703-347-8104; email: savage.nora@epa.gov
Eligibility Contact: Thomas Barnwell; Phone: 202-343-9862; email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov

Table of Contents:
  Synopsis of Program
  Award Information
  Eligibility Information
  Contact Person(s)
  Specific Areas of Interest
  Authority and Regulations
  Eligible applicants
  Cost sharing
  Address to Request Application Package
  Content and Form of Application Submission
    Special Requirements
    Supplemental Instructions
    Sorting Code
  Submission Dates and Times
  Intergovernmental Review
  Funding Restrictions
  Other Submission Requirements

Access Standard STAR Forms and Instructions
View NCER Research Capsules
View previous solicitations
View research awarded under previous solicitations


Synopsis of Program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD) as part of its Greater Opportunities (GO) research program, is seeking applications proposing research on nanoscale science, engineering and technology -- collectively referred to as nanotechnology -- with respect to the environment. EPA is interested in research concerning the applications of nanotechnology in three areas: environmentally benign manufacturing and processing; environmental monitoring devices and sensors; and environmental treatment and remediation technologies.

This is the initial announcement for this program. Although not anticipated, should modifications of this announcement be necessary, they will be posted.

Award Information:

Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards: Approximately 3-4 awards
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately$ 1.2 million total costs
Cost Sharing: None Required.
Potential Funding per Grant: Up to $150,000/year with a duration of 3 years and no more than a total of $350,000 including direct and indirect costs. Proposals with budgets exceeding the total award limits will not be considered.

Eligibility Information:

Eligibility Information: Eligible institutions of higher education are those that are not highly funded for development of environmental research capacity. For purposes of this solicitation, EPA considers such institutions to be those listed in the National Science Foundation report, “Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: Fiscal Year 2001,” Table B-15, column 2, that receive $50 million or less in annual research and development funding ( http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/nsf03326/start.htm exit EPA). See full announcement for more details.


Technical Contact: Nora Savage; Phone: 703-347-8104; email: savage.nora@epa.gov
Eligibility Contact: Thomas Barnwell; Phone: 202-343-9862; email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov



Nanotechnology has been defined by the Interagency Subcommittee on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) of the Federal Office of Science and Technology Policy as follows:

“research and technology development at the atomic, molecular or macromolecular levels, in the length scale of approximately 1 - 100 nanometer range; creating and using structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small and/or intermediate size; and the ability to control or manipulate on the atomic scale. The novel and differentiating properties and functions are developed at a critical length scale of matter typically under 100 nm. Nanotechnology research and development includes manipulation with control of the nanoscale structures and their subsequent integration into larger material components, systems and architectures. Within these larger scale assemblies, the control and construction of their structures and components remains at the nanometer scale. In some particular cases, the critical length scale for novel properties and phenomena may be under 1 nm (e.g., manipulation of atoms at ~0.1 nm) or be larger than 100 nm (e.g., nanoparticle reinforced polymers have unique features at ~ 200 - 300 nm as a function of the local bridges or bonds between the nano particles and the polymer).” (See http://www.nano.gov exit EPA for more information.)

Information regarding current research on nanotechnology can be found on ORD’s National Center for Environmental Research (NCER) homepage at http://www.epa.gov/ncer/ by doing an advanced search using the key word “nanotechnology.”


The Interagency Working Group on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) is coordinating a government-wide research effort on nanotechnology. In National Nanotechnology Initiative: Research and Development Supporting the Next Industrial Revolution, a supplement to the President’s FY 2004 Budget, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) defined nanoscience (and nanoengineering) as “the study of the unique properties of matter that occur at extremely small scales.” Nanotechnology is concerned with materials and systems whose structures and components exhibit novel and significantly changed physical, chemical, and biological properties through control of structures and devices at atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels.

Each agency participating in the government’s Interagency Working Group is involved in research efforts with unique interest and focus. The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the natural environment. EPA conducts and supports research to ensure that there is a sound scientific basis for its actions in support of this mission, and to find innovative, cost-effective ways of reducing risks. EPA’s research programs address human health and environmental effects of substances, assess potential exposure to humans and ecosystems, and develop risk management strategies and approaches. Research on environmental applications and implications of nanotechnologies must be addressed within this framework. Although nanotechnology is an emerging technology, EPA is primarily interested in areas where theoretical foundations are sufficiently well established to allow practical applications to be addressed. Such applications include improved monitoring and detection devices, alternative environmentally benign chemical processes, and rapid, inexpensive treatment and remediation technologies.

Specific Areas of Interest

Research is needed to identify opportunities and applications of nanoscale science and technology to address environmental problems. Approaches that offer new capabilities to prevent or treat highly toxic or recalcitrant pollutants in hostile environments, and ones that result in reduced generated waste streams and more effective monitoring of pollutant concentrations or their effects in ways not currently possible, are of particular interest.

Successful proposals for this solicitation will address one or more of the following research topics:

(1) Environmentally Benign Manufacturing and Processing: “Green” nanotechnology that eliminates or minimizes harmful emissions and material waste from industrial processes, or improves capability to reuse or recycle.

Nanotechnology has the potential to be used to develop new, “green” processing technologies that minimize or eliminate the use of toxic materials and the generation of undesirable by-products and effluents. Proposed research may involve nanotechnology related to improved industrial processes and starting material requirements or the development of new chemical and industrial procedures and materials to replace current hazardous constituents and processes, resulting in reductions in energy, materials, and waste generation. This research may focus on the chemical, electronic or other sectors of the economy. Proposals should be problem focused, targeting high-priority environmental problems or concerns.

EPA is particularly interested in research proposals that address the following in an environmentally acceptable, cost-effective way:
Reduction of toxic chemicals, such as Persistent Bioaccumulative Toxics (PBTs), Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs), and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). Further information on these substances may be found at:


Potential examples of types of nanotechnology research that may lead to reduction or elimination of pollutants of concern include atomic level synthesis of new and improved catalysts for industrial processes; adding information into molecules (analogous to DNA) to build new molecules; self-assembling molecules as the foundation for new chemicals and materials; and building molecules "just in time" in microscale reactors.

Applications of nanotechnology that will lead to reduced use of resources in manufacturing and minimize associated wastes include nanoscale information technologies for product identification and tracking to manage recycle, remanufacture, and end-of-life disposal; nanoscale information technologies used for process or manufacturing controls; and development of materials that are environmentally benign and provide equal or improved functionality and properties (e.g., strength) with reduced mass.

(2) Remediation/Treatment: Techniques to effectively remediate and/or treat environmental pollutants.

Cost-effective treatment and remediation pose a major challenge in efforts by EPA and others to develop effective risk management strategies. Pollutants that are highly toxic and persistent, and difficult to treat and/or access, present particular challenges. EPA is interested in proposals addressing new treatment and remediation approaches that are more effective in reducing contaminant levels and more cost effective than currently available techniques. For example, nanotechnology research that results in improved treatment options might include removal of the minute concentrations of contaminants from water (under 300 nm) and air (under 50 nm) and “smart” materials or reactive surface coatings that destroy or immobilize toxic compounds.

Substances of significant concern in the remediation of soils, sediment and ground water -- both because of their cancer and noncancer hazards -- include heavy metals (e.g., mercury, lead, cadmium) and organic compounds (e.g., benzene, chlorinated solvents, creosote, toluene). Reducing releases to the air and water, providing safe drinking water and reducing quantities and toxicity of hazardous wastes, are areas of interest for this solicitation. Proposals should be clearly problem focused and identify how the proposed approach improves on current approaches.

Examples of pollutants that are significant contaminants in the environment can be found at:


(3) Sensors: Novel monitoring technologies or devices for pollutant and microbial detection.

Protection of human health and ecosystems requires rapid, precise sensors capable of detecting pollutants at the molecular level. Major improvement in process control, compliance monitoring, and environmental decision making could be achieved if more accurate, less costly, more sensitive, multi-analyte techniques were available. EPA is particularly interested in remote, in situ, and continuous monitoring devices that yield real-time information and can detect pollutants at very low concentrations.

Examples of research interests include: the development of nanosensors for efficient and rapid in situ biochemical detection of pollutants and specific pathogens in the environment; sensors capable of real-time, continuous measurement over large areas; sensors that are capable of detecting a variety of compounds simultaneously; and sensors that utilize lab-on-a-chip technology. Research in this topic area may also involve sensors that can be used in monitoring or process control to detect or minimize pollutants or their impact on the environment.

Environmental Importance of Nanotechnology
In addition to the technical portion of the research proposal, all proposals will be assessed on the basis of their importance to environmental protection. Each application must include a section that addresses how the proposed research will affect the environment. Depending on the research topic, some examples of questions to be answered are: What pollutants will the proposed work prevent, minimize, or remove? What environmental problem/issue will be addressed by the research? What is the importance of the parameters and processes measured in the environment? Are the resulting new materials environmentally benign? How will the proposed work result in dematerializing current processes? What are the overall environmental benefits of the proposal?


Information of Emerging Micro and Nanotechnology, National Academies Press, http://books.nap.edu/books/030908623X/html/R1.html exit EPA
The Social and Economic Challenges of Nanotechnology, Economic and Social Research Council (UK) http://www.esrc.ac.uk/esrccontent/DownloadDocs/Nanotechnology.pdf exit EPA (PDF, 63pp., 1.40 MB, about PDF)
Environmental Technologies at the Nanoscale, by T. Masciangioli and W.X Zhang
http://nano.gov:/html/res/GC_ENV_PaperZhang_03-0304.pdf exit EPA (PDF, 7pp., 267.11 KB, about PDF)
Interagency Nanotechnology Workshop, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/nano/index.html

Authority and Regulations

This program is described in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance at Number 66.515

The authority for this RFA and resulting awards is contained in: Clean Air Act, Section 103, as amended, Public Law 95-95, 42 U.S.C. 7401 et seq.; Clean Water Act, Section 104, as amended, Public Law 95-217, 33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.; Solid Waste Disposal Act, Section 8001, as amended 42 U.S.C. 6981; Safe Drinking Water Act, Section 1442, as amended, Public Law 93- 523, Toxic Substances Control Act, Section 10, as amended 15 U.S.C. 2609.


It is anticipated that a total of approximately $1.2 million will be awarded, depending on the availability of funds. EPA anticipates funding approximately 3-4 grants under this RFA. The projected award per grant is $100,000 to $150,000 per year total costs, for up to 3 years. Requests for amounts in excess of a total of $350,000 including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered. The total project period for an application submitted in response to this RFA may not exceed 3 years.


Eligible Applicants

Eligible institutions of higher education are those that are not highly funded for development of environmental research capacity. For purposes of this solicitation, EPA considers such institutions to be those that receive $50 million or less in annual science and engineering research and development funding and are listed in the National Science Foundation report, “Federal Science and Engineering Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions: Fiscal Year 2001,” Table B-15, column 2 (http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/nsf03326/pdf/fssb15.pdf exit EPA) (PDF, 25pp., 94.16 KB, about PDF).

The entire report can be found at http://www.nsf.gov/sbe/srs/nsf03326/htmstart.htm. exit EPA

Eligible institutions with substantial minority student enrollment are particularly encouraged to apply. Examples of such schools are those that the U.S. Department of Education lists as “Accredited Postsecondary Minority Institutions” (http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/edlite-minorityinst-as-vi.html exit EPA)
on the four web sites below, consistent with Executive Orders 13125 (Increasing Participation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders), 13230 (Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans), 13256 (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), and 13270 (Tribal Colleges and Universities), that encourage building the capacity of minority-serving institutions to provide high-quality education.

National laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, “FFRDCs”) may not apply. FFRDC employees may cooperate or collaborate with eligible applicants within the limits imposed by applicable legislation and regulations. They may participate in planning, conducting, and analyzing the research directed by the principal investigator but may not direct projects on behalf of the applicant organization or principal investigator. The principal investigator's institution, organization or governance may provide funds through its grant from EPA to a FFRDC for research personnel, supplies, equipment, and other expenses directly related to the research. However, salaries for permanent FFRDC employees may not be provided through this mechanism.

Federal agencies may not apply. Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant, and may not receive salaries or in other ways augment their agency's appropriations through grants made by this program. However, federal employees may interact with grantees as long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant. EPA encourages interaction between its own laboratory scientists and grant principal investigators for the sole purpose of exchanging information in research areas of common interest that may add value to their respective research activities. This interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is “incidental” does not involve resource commitments.

The principal investigator’s institution may enter into an agreement with a federal agency to purchase or utilize unique supplies or services unavailable in the private sector. Examples are purchase of satellite data, census data tapes, chemical reference standards, analyses, or use of instrumentation or other facilities not available elsewhere. A written justification for federal involvement must be included in the application, along with an assurance from the federal agency involved which commits it to supply the specified service.

Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Tom Barnwell in NCER, phone 202-343-9862, email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov.

Cost Sharing

Institutional cost-sharing is not required.


Address to Request Application Package

Application forms and other materials can be found on the NCER web site at: http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/.

Content and Form of Application Submission

Information on the content and form of the application submission can be found in Section #2: The Application, and Section #5: Guidelines, Limitations, and Additional Requirements of NCER’s Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. These instructions can be found on the NCER web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms.

Special Requirements

Nanotechnology and nanoscience link the biological sciences, physical sciences, engineering, and computer sciences. Because a variety of disciplines and academic areas are involved, multi-disciplinary research teams are highly encouraged.

Supplemental Instructions

As noted above, proposals in response to this solicitation will likely require collaboration among researchers representing a variety of disciplines. The review process will therefore require a variety of disciplines and investigators should provide a balance between technical detail and accessibility to non-specialists.

Sorting Codes

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in Section #1: Sorting Code/Topic Areas of NCER’s Standard Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/). The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation are:
For Research Area 1 “Environmentally Benign Manufacturing & Processing” 2005-GO-A1
For Research Area 2 “Remediation/Treatment” 2005-GO-A2
For Research Area 3 “Sensors” 2005-GO-A3

Submission Dates and Times

Applications must be received by the application receipt date listed in this announcement. If an application is received after that date, it will be returned to the applicant without review.

The following is the schedule for this RFA. It should be noted that this schedule may be changed without prior notification due to factors that were not anticipated at the time of announcement. In the case of a change in the required receipt date, the new date will be posted on the NCER website.

Application Receipt Date: October 14, 2004, 4:00 p.m. E.S.T.
Earliest Anticipated Start Date: August 1, 2005

Intergovernmental Review

Research funded under this program may be eligible under E.O. 12372, “Intergovernmental Review of Federal Programs,” if it affects public health or if an environmental impact statement is required. If applicable, an applicant should consult the office or official designated as the single point of contact in his or her state for more information on the process the state requires in applying for assistance, if the state has selected the program for review.

Funding Restrictions

Requests for EPA funding in excess of a total of $350,000 including direct and indirect costs, will not be considered.

Budgetary requirements will be found in Sections 2H: Budget and 2I: Budget Justification of NCER’s Standard Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/). The applicant must present a detailed, itemized budget for the entire project. If a sub-agreement, such as a sub-contract, is included in the application, provide a separate budget for the sub-contract in the same format. Include the total amount for the sub-agreement under “Contracts” in the master budget. Any project which contains sub-agreements that constitute more than 40% of the total direct cost of the grant will be subject to special internal review. Additional justification for use of such sub-agreements must be provided, discussing the need for this agreement to accomplish the objectives of the research project.

Other Submission Requirements

Because of security concerns, applications cannot be personally delivered. They must be sent through regular mail, express mail, or a major courier.

The following address must be used for regular mail:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8725F)
Sorting Code: 2005-GO-XX (replace the "XX" with the appropriate code)
1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20460

The following address must be used for express mail and couriers:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Peer Review Division (8725F)
Sorting Code: 2005-GO-XX (replace the "XX" with the appropriate code)1025 F. Street, NW (Room 3500)
Washington, DC 20004
Phone: (202) 233-0686

Additional information on submission requirements will be found in Section #4: How to Apply of NCER’s Standard Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/).



Consideration of an application’s merit is based on the following criteria: (1) the originality and creativity of the proposed research, the appropriateness and adequacy of the research methods proposed and the quality assurance statement; (2) the qualifications of the principal investigator(s) and other key personnel; (3) the responsiveness of the proposal to the research needs identified for the topic areas; (4) the availability and/or adequacy of the facilities and equipment proposed for the project. Although budget information does not indicate an the application’s scientific merit, the reviewers are also asked to provide their view on the appropriateness and/or adequacy of the proposed budget. All else equal, proposals that consider multiple ecological benefits will be ranked higher than those that consider only single benefits, and proposals that involve an interdisciplinary team of researchers will be ranked higher than those that include only a single discipline. Additional information on review criteria will be found in Section #6: Review and Selection of NCER’s Standard Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/).

Review and Selection Process

All grant applications are reviewed by an appropriate external technical peer review panel. This review is designed to evaluate each proposal according to its scientific merit. Applications that receive scores of excellent and very good from the peer reviewers are subjected to a programmatic review within the EPA to assure a balanced research portfolio for the Agency. The programmatic review considers the relevance of the proposed science to EPA research priorities, program balance, budget and available funds. Final funding decisions are made by the NCER Director. Selected applicants will be required to provide additional information and the application will be forwarded to the grants administration office for award in accordance with the EPA’s procedures.


Award Notices

Customarily, applicants are notified about award decisions within six months of the application deadline. A summary statement of the scientific review by the peer panel will be provided to each applicant with the award or declination letter.

Administrative and National Policy Requirements

Expectations and responsibilities of NCER grantees will be found in Section #8: Expectations and Responsibilities of STAR Grantees of NCER’s Standard Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/). Terms and conditions associated with an NCER award can be found at: www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance.


NCER grantees will be required to provide annual progress reports and a final technical report. All investigators whose proposals use focus groups, cognitive interviews, or similar methods should plan to report findings and insights from these methods as part of their annual reports.


Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA official(s) indicated below. Email inquiries are preferred.

Technical: Nora Savage; Phone: 703-347-8104; email: savage.nora@epa.gov
Eligibility: Thomas Barnwell; Phone: 202-343-9862; email: barnwell.thomas@epa.gov

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