seeing green

National agency announces $100M in funding for energy advancement at Houston event

At Houston event, the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy announced $100 million in cleantech funding. Photos by Jeff Fitlow/Rice University

Rice University played host to the first-of-its-kind event from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E, earlier this month in which the governmental agency announced $100 million in funding for its SCALEUP program.

Dubbed “ARPA-E on the Road: Houston,” the event welcomed more than 100 energy innovators to the Hudspeth Auditorium in Rice’s Anderson-Clarke Center on June 8. Evelyn Wang, director of ARPA-E, announced the funding, which represents the third installment from the agency for its program SCALEUP, or Seeding Critical Advances for Leading Energy technologies with Untapped Potential, which supports the commercialization of clean energy technology.

The funding is awarded to previous ARPA-E awardees with a "viable road to market" and "ability to attract private sector investments," according to a statement from the Department of Energy. Previous funding was granted in 2019 and 2021.

"ARPA-E’s SCALEUP program has successfully demonstrated what can happen when technical experts are empowered with the commercialization support to develop a strong pathway to market” Wang said. “I’m excited that we are building on the success of this effort with the third installment of SCALEUP, and I look forward to what the third cohort of teams accomplish.”

Rice Vice President for Research Ramamoorthy Ramesh also spoke at the event on how Rice is working to make Houston a leader in energy innovation. Joe Zhou, CEO of Houston-based Quidnet Energy, also spoke on a panel about how ARPA-E funding benefited his company along with Oregon-based Onboard Dynamics’s CEO Rita Hansen and Massachusetts-based Quaise Energy’s CEO Carlos Araque.

Attendees were able to ask questions to Wang and ARPA-E program directors about the agency’s funding approach and other topics at the event.

Houston energy innovators have benefited from programs like SCALEUP.

Quidnet Energy received $10 million in funding from ARPA-E as part of its SCALEUP program in 2022. The company's technology can store renewable energy for long periods of time in large quantities.

In January, Houston-based Zeta Energy also announced that it has secured funding from ARPA-E. The $4 million in funding came from the agency's Electric Vehicles for American Low-Carbon Living, or EVs4ALL, program. Zeta Energy is known for its lithium sulfur batteries

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A View From HETI

The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to Rice University. Photo via Rice.edu

A team of Rice University physicists has been awarded a prestigious grant from the Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Physics for their work in high-energy nuclear physics and research into a new state of matter.

The five-year $15.5 million grant will go towards Rice physics and astronomy professor Wei Li's discoveries focused on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), a large, general-purpose particle physics detector built on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, a European organization for nuclear research in France and Switzerland. The work is "poised to revolutionize our understanding of fundamental physics," according to a statement from Rice.

Li's team will work to develop an ultra-fast silicon timing detector, known as the endcap timing layer (ETL), that will provide upgrades to the CMS detector. The ETl is expected to have a time resolution of 30 picoseconds per particle, which will allow for more precise time-of-flight particle identification.

This will also help boost the performance of the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), which is scheduled to launch at CERN in 2029, allowing it to operate at about 10 times the luminosity than originally planned. The ETL also has applications for other colliders apart from the LHC, including the DOE’s electron-ion collider at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

“The ETL will enable breakthrough science in the area of heavy ion collisions, allowing us to delve into the properties of a remarkable new state of matter called the quark-gluon plasma,” Li explained in a statement. “This, in turn, offers invaluable insights into the strong nuclear force that binds particles at the core of matter.”

The ETL is also expected to aid in other areas of physics, including the search for the Higgs particle and understanding the makeup of dark matter.

Li is joined on this work by co-principal investigator Frank Geurts and researchers Nicole Lewis and Mike Matveev from Rice. The team is collaborating with others from MIT, Oak Ridge National Lab, the University of Illinois Chicago and University of Kansas.

Last year, fellow Rice physicist Qimiao Si, a theoretical quantum physicist, earned the prestigious Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship grant. The five-year fellowship, with up to $3 million in funding, will go towards his work to establish an unconventional approach to create and control topological states of matter, which plays an important role in materials research and quantum computing.

Meanwhile, the DOE recently tapped three Houston universities to compete in its annual startup competition focused on "high-potential energy technologies,” including one team from Rice.

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