(CLOSED) Chemical Upcycling of Polymers (DE-FOA-0002462)

Sponsor Name: 
Description of the Award: 

The DOE SC program in Basic Energy Sciences (BES) announces its interest in receiving applications on behalf of single investigators and teams of investigators, which may involve multiple institutions, to support fundamental experimental and theoretical efforts that advance chemical upcycling of polymers and circular design of next-generation plastics. The term “plastic” describes a wide array of polymeric materials with diverse compositions and properties. Finished plastic products may include multiple polymeric components and often contain additives to obtain desirable physical, chemical, or mechanical properties. Understanding of chemical approaches that make use of end-of-life plastic products as feedstocks to regenerate the same product, or otherwise upcycle them to new, more valuable products, is limited. BES seeks innovative fundamental research that creates the scientific foundations for new technology solutions to reduce plastic waste, lower the energy impacts of plastic production through chemical upcycling, and create energy- and carbon-efficient feedstocks for valuable products through chemical upcycling of polymers.

BES held a community Roundtable to define priority research opportunities (PROs) for basic research relevant to chemical upcycling and circular design of polymers. The report from this Roundtable is available on the BES website:

The PROs described in the Roundtable report form the basis for this Funding Opportunity Announcement. All applications must propose fundamental experimental and/or theoretical research that will address one or more of these PROs.

This FOA emphasizes cross-cutting, fundamental research in the following areas:

  • Discovery and design of new chemical pathways to deconstruct synthetic polymeric materials efficiently and selectively into useful chemical intermediates or to functionalize existing polymers to provide new, materials with improved properties.
  • Detailed molecular-level mechanistic understanding of macromolecular conversions of polymers to materials or chemical intermediates for upcycled products from plastics, such as deconstruction and reassembly of polymers, controlled functionalization of single polymers feeds or selective reaction of single polymer classes in mixed plastic streams, compatibilization of mixed polymers, and similar chemical transformations leading to upcycled products.
  • Co-design of materials and chemical processes, coupling aspects of plastics construction, use, disassembly, and reassembly to maximize energy efficiency. This includes design and synthesis of new polymers for materials with similar or improved properties relative to current plastics that can be upcycled either in closed loops (recreating the starting material) or in cascades of processes producing series of different products that significantly extend the useful lifetime of the carbon building blocks of polymers.
  • Novel approaches for efficiently delivering the energy required to drive specific chemical transformations and enable both energy- and carbon-efficient plastics upcycling. This may include strategies that use electro-, photo-, and photo(electro)chemical approaches, or that couple these inputs to thermal processes.
  • Development of next-generation tools to probe macromolecular transformations and/or to understand polymer-catalyst interactions and behavior that drive conversion and selectivity during upcycling processes. This includes experimental, computational, and data science approaches, and their integration, to gain insights into mechanisms of materials and macromolecular transformations.
Limit (Number of applicants permitted per institution): 
Sponsor LOI Deadline: 
Mar 10, 2021
Sponsor Final Deadline: 
May 12, 2021
OVPR Application or NOI Instructions: 

Interested applicants should upload the following documents in sequence in one PDF file (File name: Last name_DE-FOA-0002462_2021 no later than 4:00 p.m. on the internal submission deadline:

1. Cover Letter (1 page, pdf):

  • Descriptive title of proposed activity
  • PI name, departmental affiliations(s) and contact information
  • Co-PI's names and departmental affiliation(s)
  • Names of other key personnel
  • Participating institution(s)
  • Priority research opportunities addressed
  • Number and title of this funding opportunity

2. Project Description (no more than two pages, pdf) identifying the project scope that addresses the key aspects and elements of the sponsor's solicitation, principal investigators, collaborators, and partner organizations.

3. 2-page CV's of Investigators

Formatting Guidelines:

Font/size: Times New Roman (no smaller than 11 pt.)
Document margins: 1.0” (top, bottom, left and right)
Standard paper size (8 ½” x 11)

To be considered as a Penn State institutional nominee, please submit a notice of intent by the date provided directly below.
This limited submission is in downselect: 
Penn State may only submit a specific number of proposals to this funding opportunity. The number of NOIs received require that an internal competition take place, thus, a downselect process has commenced. No Penn State researchers may apply to this opportunity outside of this downselect process. To apply for this limited submission, please use this link:
OVPR Downselect Deadline: 
Monday, March 1, 2021 - 4:00pm
Samy Madbouly (PS Behrend); Robert Hickey (E&MS); Bert Chandler (CoE)