Basic Energy Sciences

The Basic Energy Sciences (BES) program supports basic scientific research to lay the foundations for new energy technologies and to advance DOE missions in energy, environment, and national security. BES research emphasizes discovery, design, and understanding of new materials and new chemical, biochemical, and geological processes. The ultimate goal is to better understand the physical world and harness nature to benefit people and society.

Major technological innovations don’t just happen. They typically have their roots in basic research breakthroughs over a period of decades. The BES program supports basic research behind a broad range of energy technologies, spanning energy generation, conversion, transmission, storage, and use. Many major innovations can be traced back to basic research supported by BES over the past 40 years. These include, for example, LED lighting; efficient solar cells; better batteries; stronger, lighter materials for transportation, nuclear power plants, and national defense; and improved production processes for high-value chemicals.

The BES program is one of the nation’s largest sponsors of research in the physical sciences. The program funds basic science at nearly 170 universities, national laboratories, and other research institutions in the U.S.  BES has also built and supports a national network of major shared research facilities based at DOE national laboratories and open to all scientists. These user facilities help form the backbone of the nation’s research infrastructure. Over 16,000 scientists and engineers make use of these facilities each year.

Learn more about the Basic Energy Sciences mission and operations here.

BES By the Numbers, FY 2019

BES Subprograms

Courtesy Shawn M. Kathmann, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences (CSGB)

The Chemical Sciences, Geosciences, and Biosciences Division supports basic research on chemical transformations and energy flow. This research provides the groundwork for the development of new and improved processes for the generation, storage, conversion, and use of energy as well as for other applications.

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Materials Sciences and Engineering (MSE)

Materials Sciences and Engineering (MSE)

The Materials Sciences and Engineering Division supports basic research for the discovery and design of new materials with novel properties and functions. This research creates a foundation for the development of new and improved materials for the generation, storage, conversion, and use of energy as well as for other applications.

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Scientific User Facilities (SUF)

Scientific User Facilities (SUF)

The Scientific User Facilities Division supports R&D, planning, construction, and operation of a nationwide suite of major scientific facilities. These user facilities include large x-ray light sources, neutron scattering centers, and research centers for nanoscale science. They provide state-of-the-art instrumentation to create and measure materials and chemical systems. Tens of thousands of scientists from universities, industry, and government laboratories use them each year.

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Reprinted with permission from Baginska, M., et al. 2012. “Autonomic Shutdown of Lithium-Ion Batteries Using Thermoresponsive Microspheres,” Advanced Energy Materials 2(5), 583–90. Copyright 2012 John Wiley and Sons.

Energy Frontier Research Centers (EFRCs)

The Energy Frontier Research Centers bring together teams of scientists to perform basic research with a scope and complexity beyond what is possible for individuals or small groups. These centers foster transformative scientific advances to uncover innovative solutions to difficult problems in the energy sciences..

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Courtesy Kalia, Nakano, Vashishta, and Shimojo, University of Southern California, at the ANL IBM Blue Gene Q supercomputer with 786,432 processors.

Computational Materials and Chemical Sciences (CMS,CCS)

Computational Materials and Chemical Sciences supports teams of researchers performing basic research to develop software and databases for design of new materials and chemical processes. This research takes advantage of DOE’s current supercomputers and develops software for next-generation exascale computing systems.

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Energy Innovation Hubs

Energy Innovation Hubs

The Energy Innovation Hubs mobilize large research teams to overcome major scientific barriers to development of transformative new energy technologies. The two Hubs supported by BES focus on grand challenges in energy: (1) Fuels from Sunlight and (2) Next Generation Batteries and Energy Storage.

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BES Science Highlights

Scientists Discover a New Magnetic Quasiparticle
November 3, 2020
Neutron scattering reveals a new way for magnetic oscillations to stick together.
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Material Found in Meteorites Portends New Possibilities for Spintronic Computing
November 3, 2020
Neutron and X-ray experiments illuminate the magnetic transitions in hexagonal iron sulfide that transform it from a conductor to an insulator.
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Building Materials from Spinning Particles
October 23, 2020
Swarms of synchronized active spinning particles exhibit complex collective behavior, ranging from liquid-like states to dynamic crystals.
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Next-Generation Electron Source Hits the Bullseye for Materials Studies
August 21, 2020
New lens could generate an ion beam that is both small and fast.
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Watching Electrons Harvest Light at the Nanoscale
August 14, 2020
Insight into charge generation induced by light could enable the design of better photocatalysts made from nanomaterials.
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Elongated Ring Polymers Get Tied Up in Knots
August 11, 2020
Controlling the knotting of molecular chains offers new ties from polymer fluids to industrial applications.
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Machine Learning Probes 3D Microstructures
July 31, 2020
Machine learning-based algorithm characterizes materials’ microstructure in 3D and real time.
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Oil and Water Almost Mix in Novel Neuromorphic Computing Components
July 17, 2020
Lipid-based devices mimic brain-like processing.
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Machine Learning Speeds Molecular Motion Modeling
July 17, 2020
New approach yields fast, accurate model of how small organic molecules move in chemical processes.
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Facemask Fabric Filtration Efficiency
July 15, 2020
Scientists assessed common household fabrics to determine the best for protection against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
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BES Program News

Department of Energy to Provide $32 Million to Develop Advanced Chemical Sciences Software
Today, DOE announced plans to provide up to $32 million for research to advance the development of sophisticated software for the chemical sciences.
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Department of Energy to Provide $24 Million in EPSCoR Grants for Energy-Related Research
DOE announced a funding opportunity for up to $24 million for new and renewal grants under the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
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DOE Awards $20 Million for Research on Rare Earth Elements
Today, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $20 million for basic research aimed at ensuring a stable U.S. supply of rare earth elements.
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Department of Energy Awards $13.5 Million for Direct Air Capture Research
Funding for three national laboratory-led research efforts to capture carbon dioxide directly from ambient air.
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Department of Energy Announces $100 Million for Artificial Photosynthesis Research
Two Major Partnerships Involve Universities and DOE Laboratories
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Department of Energy to Provide $18 Million for Research on Critical Materials
Today, DOE announced plans to provide up to $18 million for basic research aimed at helping to ensure the availability of rare earth elements
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Department of Energy to Provide $22 Million for Research on Capturing Carbon Dioxide from Air
Projects Will Range from Basic Research through Testing of Prototypes
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Ten Years at the Frontiers of Energy Science
Celebrating 10 years of science at Energy Frontier Research Centers across America.
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UCI Scientists Create New Class of Two-dimensional Materials
Fabrication could help unlock new quantum computing and energy technologies.
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A Quick Liquid Flip Helps Explain How Morphing Materials Store Information
Experiments at SLAC collected more than 10,000 snapshots of phase-change materials transforming from a glassy to a crystalline state in real time.
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Contact Information

Basic Energy Sciences
U.S. Department of Energy
SC-22/Germantown Building
1000 Independence Avenue., SW
Washington, DC 20585
P: (301) 903 - 3081
F: (301) 903 - 6594
E: Email Us