DOE Offers Universities Opportunities to Advance SunShot Solar Goals

January 25, 2012

Photo of several rows of solar trough collectors in the desert.

DOE will support university research teams as they seek ways to improve heat-transfer fluids for concentrating solar power systems.
Credit: U.S. Department of the Interior

DOE announced on January 20 two opportunities for university researchers to advance the department's SunShot Initiative, a program that aims to dramatically decrease the total costs of U.S. solar energy. DOE will make up to $10 million available to support the development of heat-transfer fluids that are more efficient, thus reducing the cost of energy from concentrating solar power (CSP) systems. The department also opened the second round of SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards for applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities.

Under the solicitation for heat-transfer fluids, DOE will support university-based CSP research projects to develop and demonstrate fluids that are more stable than current technologies at temperatures greater than 800°C. CSP plants use mirrors to focus sunlight to heat a working fluid, which generates steam that spins a turbine or powers a heat engine that produces electricity. Higher-temperature working fluids could enable CSP systems to couple with heat engines that are capable of converting more than 50% of the heat in the working fluid into electricity.

This funding will be awarded as part of the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative, a program designed to advance research, accelerate technology transfer into the marketplace, and prepare a new generation of scientists and engineers. DOE anticipates funding one or two projects over five years through this opportunity. For more information, see the Funding Opportunity Announcement on DOE's Funding Opportunity Exchange website.

In addition, DOE opened the next round of SunShot Initiative postdoctoral research awards, which will provide students the chance to work on advanced clean energy technologies. Recipients will conduct applied research at universities, national laboratories, and other research facilities. This program includes an opportunity for recipients to participate in a research exchange program with Australia under the United States-Australia Solar Energy Collaboration. See the DOE Progress Alert, the SunShot Postdoctoral Researchers Web page, and the SunShot Initiative website.