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Energy Innovation Hubs To Focus On 3 Areas

Posted on Tuesday 5th January 2010

Research on energy from sunlight, energy efficiency in buildings and advanced nuclear reactors is the focus of Energy Innovation Hubs that will be created and funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

On Dec. 22, DOE announced plans to invest as much as $366 million in starting and operating the new energy research centers. The three DOE Energy Innovation Hubs will conduct research on the production of fuels directly from sunlight, improving energy-efficient building systems design, and computer modeling and simulation to be used for advanced nuclear reactors.

The announcement was made just days after the conclusion of the climate summit in Copenhagen, where key countries made environmental and energy pledges. As part of the U.S.’s focus on energy and climate goals, the idea behind each Hub is to accelerate the innovation process from research to commercial availability of energy-related technologies.

“The DOE Energy Innovation Hubs represent a new, more proactive approach to managing and conducting research,” said DOE Secretary Steven Chu. “We are taking a page from America’s great industrial laboratories in their heyday. Their achievements — from the transistor to the information theory that makes modern telecommunications possible — are evidence that we can build creative, highly-integrated research teams that can accomplish more, faster, than researchers working separately.”

One Hub will be dedicated to developing ways to convert sunlight into fuels, similar to photosynthesis where sunlight, carbon dioxide and water are converted into sugar. The second Hub will work to develop highly efficient building materials, systems and models toward reducing energy use for indoor climate control. The aim of the nuclear energy Hub will be to develop computing methods to better understand issues with current and future nuclear energy technologies.

Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete for an award to establish and operate a Hub and are encouraged to form partnerships. Awards, based on evaluation by scientific peer review, will be announced next summer. The Hubs are expected to begin work in 2010 and will be fully operational by 2011.

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