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 2018

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

New Probe for the Secrets of Complex Interfaces
January 21, 2019
Element-selective method reveals interfacial properties of materials used for water purification, catalysis, energy conversion, and more.
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Peering into the Mist: How Water Vapor Changes Metal at the Atomic Level
January 11, 2019
New insights into molecular-level processes could help prevent corrosion and improve catalytic conversion.
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How to Best Predict Chemical Reactions of Contaminants in Water
December 12, 2018
The availability of fresh water is a global issue that’s driving interest in ways to turn wastewater into clean water. Purifying wastewater
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Subtlety and the Selective Art of Separating Lanthanides
December 6, 2018
Fundamental understanding of selective recognition and separation of lanthanide ions by chelating agents is of crucial importance for advancing
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Quickly Capture Tiny Particles Reacting
November 28, 2018
Easily tuned nanometer-sized crystals that absorb and react with light with extreme sensitivity would aid both petrochemical and solar energy
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Review Examines the Science and Needs of Nitrogen-Based Transformations
November 26, 2018
Since 1913, ammonia has been produced via the Haber-Bosch process. The process transforms nitrogen gas into ammonia, which is packed into
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Opening Access to Explore the Synthetic Chemistry of Neptunium
November 7, 2018
Neptunium metal is extremely scarce, limiting its use as an entry route into molecular chemical studies. In contrast, aqueous acidic stock
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Tiny Titanium Barrier Halts Big Problem in Fuel-Producing Solar Cells
November 7, 2018
Green leafy plants readily convert sunlight into energy-dense fuels. Conventional solar cells don’t. Why not? A key reaction, splitting water
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Turning Wood Scraps into Tape
November 7, 2018
Scientists developed a new and robust process that converts components of lignocellulosic biomass into high-performance high-value PSAs that have
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Very Heavy Elements Deliver More Electrons
November 7, 2018
When forming bonds with oxygen or participating in reactions involving oxygen atom transfer, the early actinide elements, protactinium through
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BES Program News

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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Penn Engineers Demonstrate Superstrong, Reversible Adhesive That Works Like Snail Slime
In a new study, Penn Engineers demonstrate a strong, reversible adhesive that uses the same mechanisms that snails do.
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Researchers Develop Superconducting Quantum Refrigerator
Physicist Andrew Jordan from the University of Rochester and his fellow researchers have conceived an idea for a superconducting quantum refrigerator.
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Energy Department to Invest $32 Million in Computer Design of Materials
Researchers to take advantage of DOE’s advanced supercomputers.
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New Research Facility Will Serve ORNL's Growing Mission in Computing, Materials R&D
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Congressman Chuck Fleischmann and lab officials today broke ground on a multipurpose research facility that will provide state-of-the-art laboratory space for expanding scientific activities at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The new Translational Research Capability, or TRC, will be purpose-built for world-leading research in computing and materials science and will serve to advance the science and engineering of quantum information.
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Neutrons Investigate Tomatoes for Insights Into Interplant Chatter
Professors Kathryn and Jonathan Morris from Xavier University are using neutron scattering at the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to observe firsthand how these info-chemicals travel along tiny, pipe-like networks called fungal hyphae. Whether the messages move passively along the outside of those fungal networks or the fungi deliberately locate and absorb info-chemicals for transportation remains unclear.
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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