NSF director Subra Suresh (above) reported during the MS&T11 plenary session that the next step in getting out information about MGI funding opportunities would come in the “Dear Colleague Letter.” Credit: P. Wray; ACerS.

During last week’s plenary presentation at MS&T’11, NSF director Subra Suresh mentioned several times that additional information would be forthcoming in regard to funding opportunities for the high-priority Materials Genome Initiate. In particular, Suresh alerted the audience to the imminent release of an NSF “Dear Colleague Letter” on the topic.

I’ve been out of the country for the last week, but today I noticed that the letter, “Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future,” has now been posted (signed by Edward Seidel and Thomas Peterson, Mathematical and Physical Sciences and Engineering Directorates, respectively) and it is definitely worth reviewing the DMREF post if you haven’t done so already.

Part of the emphasis in the letter, as we heard at MS&T’11’s special MGI session, is on developing a common toolset, which can be used across the entire materials discovery-to-deployment continuum, that integrates “advanced computational methods with data-enabled scientific discovery and innovative experimental techniques in such a manner as to revolutionize our approach to materials research and engineering.”

The overarching deliverable of the DMREF is to have multiple breakthroughs in developing and engineering materials to specified functions or properties from first principles.

Here is the real meat of NSF interests discussed in the letter:

• “Activities that accelerate materials discovery and development by building the fundamental knowledge base needed to progress towards designing and making a material with a specific and desired function or property from first principles'”

• “Proposals that seek to advance fundamental materials understanding across length and time scales to elucidate the effects of microstructure, surfaces, and coatings on the properties and performance of engineering materials. The ultimate goal is to enable control of material properties through design via the establishment of the interrelationships between constitution, processing, structure, properties, performance and process control;”

• Bridging, collaborative research “and iterative process where computation guides experiments and theory, while experiments and theory advance computation;” and

• Designs that address the “recyclability and sustainability of materials.”

NSF is also encouraging collaborations with industry, national laboratories, engineering partners or other organizations.

Seidel and Peterson make a point of noting that DMREF is not a stand-alone program and will work side-by-side with two other programs: Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry and the Software Infrastructure for Sustained Innovation.

One important thing is that the window for submitting proposals is coming up quickly: Jan. 15, 2012-Feb. 15, 2012.

Also, we are hoping to be able to post a video interview we conducted with Cyrus Wadia, from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, who is emerging as one of the most articulate spokespersons on the MGI concepts, goals and structures.