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U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Research and Development
National Center for Environmental Research
Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Program

CLOSED - FOR REFERENCES PURPOSES ONLY

Environmental Futures Research in Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology

Opening date: February 13, 2002
Closing date: July 1, 2002

Summary of Program Requirements
Introduction
Background
Specific Areas of Interest
Funding
Eligibility
Standard Instructions for Submitting an Application
Contacts

Access Standard STAR Forms and Instructions (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/index.html)
View NCER Research Capsules (http://www.epa.gov/ncer/publications/topical/)
View research awarded under previous solicitations  (http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/research.search/rpt/abs/type/3)


SUMMARY OF PROGRAM REQUIREMENTS
GENERAL INFORMATION

Program Title:

Environmental Futures Research in Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology

Sorting Code:

The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is 2002-STAR-L1

Synopsis of Program:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, is seeking grant applications for research on nanoscale science, engineering and technology, collectively referred to as nanotechnology. EPA is particularly interested in proposals in Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology that address environmental issues in four topic areas of potential application: Environmentally Benign Manufacturing and Processing; Remediation and Treatment; Sensors; and Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology.   In the fourth area, "Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology" proposals are sought for smaller grants. (see Award Information or Funding section below)

Contact Persons:

Barbara Karn, PhD: Phone: 202-564-6824;  email: karn.barbara@epa.gov
Nora Savage, PhD: Phone: 202-564-8228; email: savage.nora@epa.gov

Applicable Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) Number(s):

66.500

Eligibility Information:

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program.  Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply. (see eligibility section below for more information)

Award Information:

Anticipated Type of Award: Grant
Estimated Number of Awards:  Approximately twelve in topics 1-3 and approximately five in topic 4.
Anticipated Funding Amount: Approximately $5 million total.
Potential Funding per Grant per Year: For topics 1-3: $100,000 to $130,000/yr ($300,000- $390,000 total costs) per grant for up to 3 years.  For topic 4:  $50,000/year for up to 2 years.
Limitations:  Requests over $390,000 total will not be considered.

Deadline/Target Dates:

Letter of Intent Due Date(s):  None
Application Proposal Due Date(s): July 1, 2002

Mailing Address for Applications:

This is an EPA RFA.  See the “How to Apply” section of the Standard Instructions for STAR Grants
(http://www.epa.gov/ncer/rfa/forms/standinstr.html)
 

INTRODUCTION

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Office of Research and Development (ORD), National Center for Environmental Research (NCER), as part of its Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program, announces its second extramural grants competition supporting research leading to applications in nanoscale science, engineering, and technology, collectively referred to as nanotechnology. EPA is interested in advances in nanotechnology that can improve the protection of human health and the environment, including significant improvements in cost or performance, of our capabilities to assess and solve environmental problems.  EPA is also interested in predicting and understanding both positive and negative environmental effects of this new technological revolution and the changes it will bring to our society.

Proposals for the first three topic areas (Environmentally Benign Manufacturing and Processing, Remediation/Treatment, Sensors)  are most appropriate from researchers in engineering and the physical sciences.  Proposals for the fourth topical area,  Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology, could include researchers in the social sciences.  However, there are no strict disciplinary requirements for applications in any of the four areas, and interdisciplinary collaborations are encouraged.  In all proposals, EPA is particularly interested in a problem-oriented focus, i.e. proposals that identify a particular environmental problem, address the application of nanotechnology to that problem, and explain the expected advance over conventional approaches that the proposed research can achieve.

BACKGROUND

The Interagency Working Group on Nanoscale Science, Engineering and Technology (NSET) of the Committee on Technology, National Science and Technology Council (NSTC), is coordinating a government-wide research effort on nanotechnology.  In National Nanotechnology Initiative: Leading to the Next Industrial Revolution, a supplement to the President’s FY 2001 Budget, the NSTC defined nanotechnology as “the ability to work at the molecular level, atom by atom, to create large structures with fundamentally new molecular organization.” Nanotechnology is concerned with materials and systems whose structures and components exhibit novel and significantly changed physical, chemical, and biological properties by gaining control of structures and devices at atomic, molecular, and supramolecular levels.

Each Agency involved in the government’s nanotechnology research effort has its own unique interest and focus for nanotechnology research.  The mission of the United States Environmental Protection Agency is to protect human health and the environment. EPA conducts and supports research to ensure that there is a sound scientific basis for its actions to carry out 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 assess risk to inform decisions on the most appropriate risk management 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 so that practical applications can be addressed.

EPA is also interested in the potential environmental implications of nanotechnology.  As a revolutionary science and engineering approach that affects the existing infrastructure of consumer goods, manufacturing methods, and materials usage, it has the potential  to have major consequences – positive and negative – on the environment.  Applications of nanotechnology that reduce raw material usage, use of toxics and generation of wastes and effluents, as well as  applications that more effectively treat waste streams and remediate existing polluted sites, can be of benefit to environmental protection.  At the same time, the potentially harmful effects of nanotechnology applications need to be anticipated and prevented or minimized.  These effects may relate to the nature of nanoparticles themselves, to the characteristics of the products made from them, or from aspects of the manufacturing process involved.  It is also possible that nanotechnology could lead to societal changes that will influence transportation, urban development and other core activities of our society that directly affect the quality of the environment.

SPECIFIC AREAS OF INTEREST

The research interests defined below should be viewed in the context of the background just described.  Research is needed to identify opportunities and applications of nanoscale science and technology to environmental problems and to evaluate the potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology on the environment.  Approaches that offer new capabilities to prevent or treat highly toxic or recalcitrant pollutants, and that result in more effective monitoring of pollutants or their impact 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 that improves reuse or our ability to 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. Research may involve nanotechnology related to improved industrial processes and starting material requirements, 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:
http://www.epa.gov/greenchemistry/
http://www.epa.gov/pbt/cheminfo.htm
http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/188polls.html

Potential examples of types of nanotechnology research that may lead to reduction or elimination of these pollutants of concern include atomic level synthesis of new and improved catalysts for industrial processes; adding information into molecules (analogous to DNA) thst 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, such as 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, 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 finest 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 remediation of soils, sediment and groundwater, both because of their cancer and non-cancer 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:
http://www.epa.gov/ebtpages/airairpocriteriaairpollutants.html
http://www.epa.gov/triinter/chemical/index.htm
http://www.epa.gov/OGWDW/ccl/cclfs.html

(3) Sensors:  Novel sensing 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 techniques were available.  EPA is particularly interested in remote, in situ, and continuous monitoring devices that yield real-time information, or that 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 continuous measurement over large areas, including those connected to nanochips for real-time continuous monitoring; 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.

 (4) Environmental Implications of Nanotechnology: Environmental benefits and potential harmful effects of nanotechnology at a societal level.

Proposals for smaller grants are requested in this topic area (See Funding section below).   EPA is seeking proposals that identify significant potential environmental impacts of nanotechnology – both positive and negative – and that propose research to further understand and characterize the impacts, and outline the additional research, required to further predict these impacts.

Research under this topic may include the social sciences and economics in addition to engineering and the natural sciences to assess beneficial or harmful effects of nanotechnology on society.

Example topics could include environmental implications of the cost, size and availability of advanced nanotechnologies; development of models to determine potential releases or reduction of pollutants due to adoption of nanotechnologies; potential benefits of very advanced sensors that may enable new scientific capabilities in environmental science; impact of artificial nanoparticles in the atmosphere; and impacts from the development of nanomachines.  See http://nano.gov/nni2.pdf exit EPA for the report on "Societal Implications of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology."

Environmental Importance of Nanotechnology
In addition to the discussion of the research proposed in nanoscience and nanotechnology, all research 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?

REFERENCES

http://www.nano.gov exit EPA -- for a wealth of information on nanotechnology.

http://nano.gov/omb_nifty50.htm exit EPA --  for a detailed definition of nanotechnology.


FUNDING

Based on availability of funds, approximately twelve awards will be made  in topics 1-3 and approximately five in topic 4.
The anticipated funding amount is approximately $5 million. Potential Funding per Grant per Year: For topics 1-3: $100,000 to $130,000/yr ($300,000- $390,000 total costs) per grant for up to 3 years. For topic 4:  $50,000/year for up to 2 years.
Limitations: Requests over $390,000 total will not be considered.


ELIGIBILITY

Academic and not-for-profit institutions located in the U.S., and state or local governments, are eligible under all existing authorizations. Profit-making firms are not eligible to receive grants from EPA under this program.  Federal agencies and national laboratories funded by federal agencies (Federally-funded Research and Development Centers, FFRDCs) may not apply.

Federal employees are not eligible to serve in a principal leadership role on a grant. 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 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 employees 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 so long as their involvement is not essential to achieving the basic goals of the grant.1 The principal investigator’s institution may also 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, etc.  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.


1EPA 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. However, this interaction must be incidental to achieving the goals of the research under a grant. Interaction that is “incidental” is not reflected in a research proposal and involves no resource commitments.


Potential applicants who are uncertain of their eligibility should contact Jack Puzak in NCER, phone (202) 564-6825, e-mail: puzak.jack@epa.gov

STANDARD INSTRUCTIONS FOR SUBMITTING AN APPLICATION

A set of special instructions on how applicants should apply for an NCER grant is found on the NCER web site, http://www.epa.gov/ncer/guidance/.  The necessary forms for submitting an application are also on this web site.

Sorting Codes

The need for a sorting code to be used in the application and for mailing is described in the Standard Instructions for Submitting a STAR Application. The sorting code for applications submitted in response to this solicitation is 2002-STAR-L1.

The deadlines for receipt of the applications by NCER are no later than 4:00 p.m. EDT, Monday, July 1, 2002.

CONTACTS

Further information, if needed, may be obtained from the EPA officials indicated below. E-mail inquiries are preferred.

Barbara Karn, PhD;  Phone: 202-564-6824;  email: karn.barbara@epa.gov
Nora Savage, PhD: Phone: 202-564-8228; email: savage.nora@epa.gov

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