Participant Support Subproject

Project: Research project

Project Details


A. Proposed Vision The United Nations estimates that the current world population will increase almost 40% from 7.6 billion in 2010 to 11.2 billion in 2100, an increase of over 83 million a year. To meet growing global demand, it is estimated that by 2050 the world will need to expand energy production by 48%, secure clean water for an estimated 5 billion people, and achieve a 19% increase in agricultural water supply. New materials have historically resulted in dramatic enhancements in human quality of life, justifying an expectation that solutions to these pressing needs can similarly be addressed by materials discoveries. In particular, new catalysts with exceptional activity to, for example, neutralize organic material in water, or reduce nitrogen to ammonia will likely be required. To meet rising global needs, it is imperative that such discoveries move forward at a highly accelerated pace, a pace that can be achieved via massively parallel synthesis matched by exquisite, yet high throughput, characterization. To achieve such a goal, this proposal envisions an Engineering Research Center at the International Institute for Nanotechnology at Northwestern University that brings together a transdisciplinary team of researchers, educators, and stakeholders focused on the invention and development of new methodologies to dramatically accelerate materials discovery and design. Utilizing combinatorial nanoscience implemented in mega-libraries (libraries with billions of systematically varied particle compositions and sizes) for the rapid discovery and development of materials, critical for hydrogen production and utilization to create a cleaner, cheaper energy; nitrogen fixation to enhance food production; and water purification to yield access to clean water at lower cost and greater scale. The methodologies developed are likely to have applicability far beyond the catalytic solutions to societal needs recognized here. An ERC planning grant is requested to support comprehensive efforts to identify and assemble an outstanding group of researchers, educators, and stakeholders with a shared vision for addressing societal needs via massively parallel materials discovery. The University of Puerto Rico and Liverpool University have already been identified as a key potential partners. Online tools will enable thoughtful team formation. Seminars and workshops in three targeted areas will allow team members to discover, explore, and crystalize mission and goals. Live, face-to-face interactions will allow leadership to guide the development of a culture of inclusion and creativity. Task analytic methods and tools will be utilized to identify the knowledge, skills, and attitudes required for effective performance of the project. Open suite e-learning resources will foster learning and development in Team Science. B. Intellectual Merit It is anticipated that as a result of the planning activities a highly integrated convergent team will be developed within a framework of diversity and inclusion. The research mission will be sharpened into a crisp, singular vision for a successful ERC that has the potential to address significant societal needs. World leaders in the three key topical areas, water, food and energy, have been identified and the exchange of ideas that will occur in open symposia at which these individuals will participate will generate new ideas for exploiting the combinatorial approach. The knowledge gained through the advancement of this planning grant will be a benefit for all the participants, particularly the graduate student
Effective start/end date9/1/188/31/20


  • National Science Foundation (EEC-1840619)


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