The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced up to $54 million in new funding for the agency’s National Laboratories to advance basic research in microelectronics. Microelectronics are a fundamental building block of modern devices such as laptops, smartphones, and home appliances, and hold the potential to power innovative solutions to challenges like the climate crisis and national security.
“Thanks to microelectronics, transformational technologies that used to swallow up entire buildings now fit in the palms of our hands—and it’s time to take this work to the next level,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Microelectronics are the key to the technologies of tomorrow, and with DOE’s world-class scientists leading the charge, they can help bring our clean energy future to life and put America a step ahead of our economic competitors.”
Microelectronics were originally developed as a powerful capability for miniaturizing transistors and electronic circuits. Since then, they have fueled a digital revolution, making devices like computers and phones more powerful, compact, and convenient for everyday use.
More microelectronics research is needed to pave the way for the next generation of revolutionary technologies. Potential applications include clean energy technologies that will help America combat the climate crisis, such as developments to make the nation’s grid more efficient, more responsive to fluctuations in energy demand, and more resilient to extreme weather events.
New research could also help revive American production of semiconductors—critical computer chips that power everything from cars to medical equipment. Currently, the nation largely depends on semiconductors that are manufactured abroad, and recent global shortages have threatened to disrupt major U.S. industries.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has given us a clear picture of how vulnerable our unsecured supply chains are, and one of the biggest of these vulnerabilities is a lack of domestic semiconductor manufacturing,” said U.S. Senator John Cornyn. “This investment and the research resulting from it will help us advance American leadership in semiconductor manufacturing, an area of bipartisan agreement in Congress and the Administration.”
National Laboratories may apply for the three-year awards, to be selected based on peer review. Up to $36 million of the $54 million in planned funding is contingent on congressional appropriations.
More information is available at the Office of Science’s National Lab Announcement page.