By Wileen Wong Kromhout

A leader in research on sustainable energy and clean technology, the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science will now be home to a new multimillion-dollar Energy Frontier Research Center (EFRC) funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

The center, which the DOE plans to fund at $11.5 million over five years, will focus on the creation and production of nanoscale materials for use in converting solar energy into electricity, electrical energy storage, and capturing and separating greenhouse gases.

“A center for energy research is something we’ve been trying to establish for a long time,” said Vidvuds Ozolins, UCLA professor of materials science and engineering and the new center’s director. “We want the center to provide revolutionary breakthroughs, game-changing solutions, and we want to carry the research into real life. By bringing together several faculty across campus who have already done significant work in energy production, energy storage and carbon capture, we’ll be able to hit the ground running.”

The center, whose goal also is to increase societal awareness of sustainable energy issues through an integrated program of research, education and outreach, will be collaborating with scientists and faculty at the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Eastern Washington University, the University of Kansas and the University of California, Davis.

“Being awarded this new multimillion-dollar energy research center is a testament that UCLA Engineering faculty continue to be at the forefront of research,” said Vijay K. Dhir, dean of UCLA Engineering. “Global energy demands will only continue to grow, and the center’s work will be essential in helping to make alternative and renewable energy a viable resource for the 21st century.”

UCLA’s center will be one of 46 new EFRCs across the country. Of the 46 selected, 31 will be led by universities, 12 by DOE national laboratories, two by nonprofit organizations and one by a corporate research laboratory. The new centers were selected from among a pool of some 260 applicants based on a rigorous merit review process utilizing outside panels composed of scientific experts.

The EFRCs will bring together groups of leading scientists to address fundamental issues in a variety of fields, including solar energy, biofuels, transportation, electricity storage and transmission, clean coal, carbon capture and sequestration, and nuclear energy. More than 110 institutions from 36 states and the District of Columbia and eight foreign countries will be participating in EFRC research.