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

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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Probing Water’s “No-Man’s Land” Temperature Region
November 7, 2018
While scientists have studied water for a long time, there’s still much that they don’t know. A particularly interesting aspect is
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How Plant Cells Decide When to Make Oil
October 29, 2018
This study builds on the team’s previous research, which established clear links between a protein complex that senses sugar levels in plant
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Shining Light on the Separation of Rare Earth Metals
October 17, 2018
Rare earth element-containing materials are irreplaceable and used widely in technologies such as lighting, displays, biological sensors, lasers,
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How to Make Soot and Stardust
October 17, 2018
The chemical reactions behind soot particle formation have long been a mystery. The reactions, which turn gaseous hydrocarbons into a solid that
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Placing Atoms for Optimum Catalysts
October 16, 2018
The team began with a flat piece of ruthenium metal. On top of the metal, they grew graphene, which is a one-atom-thick layer of carbon. In this
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Water Plays Unexpected Role in Forming Minerals
September 15, 2018
Knowing how minerals form is vital for subsurface energy extraction and waste storage, creating tailored catalysts, and more. Minerals can form via
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Seeing Between the Atoms
September 6, 2018
For electron microscopes, the traditional approaches to improving resolution are increasing the energy of the electron beam, up to a point where
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Getting an Up-Close, 3-D View of Gold Nanostars
September 6, 2018
Gold nanostars are a class of plasmonic nanomaterials that show promise in surface-enhanced Raman scattering-based applications and hot electron
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Scaling Up Single-Crystal Graphene
September 5, 2018
A research team used chemical vapor deposition—with a twist—to localize control of the synthesis process and allow evolutionary, or
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BES Program News

Energy Department to Invest $32 Million in Computer Design of Materials
Researchers to take advantage of DOE’s advanced supercomputers.
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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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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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Simpler & Smaller: A New Synthetic Nanofactory Inspired by Nature
In a new study, researchers at MSU report a new genetically engineered shell, based on natural structures and the principles of protein evolution.
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Using DNA Templates to Harness the Sun's Energy
A team of researchers led by Hao Yan, Yan Liu and Neal Woodbury of the School of Molecular Sciences and Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biom
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New Approach for Solving Protein Structures from Tiny Crystals
Using x-rays to reveal the atomic-scale 3-D structures of proteins has led to countless advances in understanding how these molecules work in bacteria, viruses, plants, and humans—and has guided the development of precision drugs to combat diseases such as cancer and AIDS. But many proteins can’t be grown into crystals large enough for their atomic arrangements to be deciphered. To tackle this challenge, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and colleagues at Columbia University have developed a new approach for solving protein structures from tiny crystals.
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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