Earlier this year, as part of ACerS’s Electronic Materials and
Applications conference, Dave Danielson, from ARPA-E, made a valuable
keynote presentation about ARPA-E funding interests and how ceramists
and other materials scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs can best
match up their interests with the agency’s.
Danielson has a good
reputation in the world of materials and venture funding,
and his message was that like DARPA, its DoD counterpart, ARPA is
indeed interested in high-risk, high-reward projects, but with a strong
bias toward funding efforts that can have large impact and can
reasonably be seen as getting closer to the marketplace. In other
words, they won’t be funding basic science, but if you have something
that might deliver gigawatts, they will be interested in talking to
Moreover Danielson’s message is that there are plenty of
opportunities for ceramists and materials scientists and engineers in
general. He made a point of emphasizing that the opportunities are in
funding, but also in employment: ARPA-E is looking for program directors and fellows.
He says that ARPA-E is already funding many materials-oriented
efforts, including ones involving planar sodium batteries, vertically
aligned carbon nanotube-based ultracapacitors, CNT membranes for CO2
capture, GaN-on-SI electronics for electric vehicles, direct growth of
monocrystalline equivalents and new magnetic materials 75% less rare
earth elements but have twice the energy density.
Danielson also talks about specific game-changers in electronic
ceramics. Besides (grid-scale) Na batteries mentioned above, he
specifically mentioned solid-state capacitors, ceramic electrolytes in
lithium batteries, high-energy battery cathodes, grain
boundary-engineered (i.e., ‘virtual single crystals”) thin film for
photovoltaic applications, high-temp superconductors and low-cost
methods for growing single-crystal Si wafers and ZnO, GaN crystals for
Danielson is also promoting participating in ARPA-E via attending
their workshops and helping to develop programing and serving as a
reviewer of proposals.