The goal of the Process and Reaction Engineering (PRE) program is to advance fundamental engineering research on the rates and mechanisms of important classes of catalyzed and uncatalyzed chemical reactions as they relate to the design, production, and application of catalysts, chemical processes, biochemical processes, and specialized materials that have important impacts on society. The program seeks to advance electrochemical and photochemical processes of engineering significance or with commercial potential, design and optimization of complex chemical and biochemical processes, dynamic modeling and control of process systems and individual process units, reactive processing of polymers/ceramics/thin films, and interactions between chemical reactions and transport processes in reactive systems, for the integration of this information into the design of complex chemical and biochemical reactors.
A substantial focus of the PRE program is to impact the chemical manufacturing enterprise by funding projects aimed at zero emissions and environmentally-friendly, smart manufacturing using sustainable materials.
Areas that focus on reactors of all types (fuel cells, batteries, microreactors, biochemical reactors, etc.), reactor design in general, and design and control of all systems associated with energy from renewable sources have a high priority for funding. Proposals should focus on:
- Chemical Reaction Engineering: This area encompasses the interaction of transport phenomena and kinetics in reactive systems and the use of this knowledge in the design of complex chemical and biochemical reactors. Focus areas include non-traditional reactor systems such as membrane reactors, microreactors, and reactions in supercritical fluids; novel activation techniques such as plasmas, acoustics, and microwaves; and multifunctional systems synthesis such as "smart" molecules, "chemical laboratory on a chip," "chemical factory on a chip" concepts, bioreactor design and bioprocess optimization, and fermentation technology. The program also supports new approaches for generating energy from renewable resources as well as optimizing new approaches in all areas such as developing atomic layer deposition for microelectronic devices.
- Process Design and Control: These areas encompass the design and optimization of complex chemical and biochemical processes and the dynamic modeling and control of process systems and individual process units. High priority research topics include simultaneous product and process design, including bioprocesses; increased process plant efficiency by algorithms that communicate across design levels and incorporate multiple criteria such as profitability, safety, operability, environmental sustainability, and societal concerns; and new sensor development to measure composition, product properties, morphology, etc. Systems approaches that span and optimize across multiple scales, from nano to mega, and integrate planning and scheduling and the globalization of the industrial applications are also of interest to the program. Utilization of the latest in cyberinfrastructure resources including hardware at the tera- and peta-scale is encouraged.
- Reactive Polymer Processing: Program scope is limited in the polymerization area to research that integrates synthesis (chemical reaction of monomers to form polymer chains or complexes) and processing steps (steps that orient and anneal polymer melts and affect the long range conformations and consequently their properties). Typical projects are in the areas of emulsion and miniemulsion polymerization, reaction injection molding, etc. Program focus is on addressing environmental concerns while producing tailor-made molecules and materials.
Innovative proposals outside of these specific interest areas can be considered. However, prior to submission, it is recommended that the PI contact the Program Director to avoid the possibility of the proposal being returned without review.
The duration of unsolicited awards is generally one to three years. The typical award size for the program is around $100,000 per year. Proposals requesting a substantially higher amount than this, without prior consultation with the Program Director, may be returned without review.
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