Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Thanks President Bush!

Betcha thought you'd never see that here!

Well let me introduce to you a nice little linky here to a Financial Assistance Funding Opportunity Announcement from a new department Called ARPA-E.

I'm pretty excited about this. Lets start with what ARPA-E is. Think DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, the folks who make the James Bond devices, and fund cool weapons research and all that cool stuff. But the Advanced Research Project Agency - Energy is similarly structured, but the project funded and promoted are related to energy research.

This group is making some noise these days because they are funding the tough stuff, the stuff that is having trouble getting out of the lab, more on that later. So what is ARPA-E?

The stated goal of ARPA-E is to enhance the Nation’s economic and energy security through research and development of technologies that reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources, improve energy efficiency of the U.S. economy, reduce the impact of the energy sector on the environment, and ensure the U.S. leadership in developing energy technologies. To achieve this ARPA-E will support collaborative, targeted, high-risk, high pay-off research to accelerate the innovation cycle for transformational energy technologies.

Why do I thank Bush? He signed the law that created this group. Of course ARPA-E has gotten no funding until this year. That's a story we have heard before isn't it?

Anyway, the recovery act provided the DOE with over 16 billion dollars for energy research and development and implementation with two main goals:

(1) Enhance the economic and energy security of the United States through the development of energy technologies that result in-

  • a. reductions of imports of energy from foreign sources;

  • reductions of energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases; and

  • improvement in the energy efficiency of all economic sectors; and

(2) Ensure that the United States maintains a technological lead in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.

I know half of the country thinks the recovery act is bad news. It may be. My attitude is that after spending like this after the 1929 crash and WWII, the American economy shot up and much can be attributed to good infrastructure, educational institutions and science. It took a long time, but we got the national debt back down, even to the point where for the first time in many decade we were talking about surpluses. we can do this again by leading in fields like medicine and energy, supplying the world with know how and products that can't be found elsewhere. If we do not make these investments, we will be surpassed by other countries who are already on the road to supremacy in these areas.

Anyway, back to ARPA-E. They did not receive even 5% of the overall DOe funding, but they still got a good chunk, 400 million. This money will be spent on things that are not obvious improvements. This money isn't going to go towards improving gas mileage by 1%, or improving yields of solar panels by 5%. We are talking about proposals that are supposed to be transformational. Here is their description of the projects they might help to fund.

Transformational energy technologies are those that have the potential to create new paradigms in how energy is produced, transmitted, used, and/or stored. Such advances are characterized by a clear view of a desired outcome, an understanding of the barriers that intervene, and innovative pathways toward a new frontier. They have the potential to radically change understanding of important energy-related concepts or to lead to the creation of new energy-related fields. As breakthroughs, they often depend on technical approaches that are novel, emergent, integrative,or enabling, and fall outside the established constructs of existing mission-directed or discipline-oriented programs.

Once the technology is identified, where does ARPA-E help to support it?

ARPA-E will fund scientists and technologists to take an immature technology that promises to make a large impact on the ARPA-E Mission Areas (see Section I.B) and develop it beyond the “valley of death” that prevents many transformational new technologies from becoming a market reality. The “valley of death” generally occurs in two phases. The first phase occurs at the point of determining whether a laboratory stage technology can ever become a real-world technology or it has some inherent unsuitability for real-world applications. Once it has been determined through R&D that the apparent barriers can be overcome and how they may be overcome, then additional investment from many other sources causes a new field of technology options to open up. The second phase of the “valley of death” occurs at the point of developing the immature transformational technology to the point where key risks have been lowered enough that industry can invest in the final stages of development and incorporate the technology into products.

This funding is not intended to be an endless supply of government cash. Its intended to get a technology off the ground. If its a lab demonstration, then the funding could be used to get a system going. If a prototype has been made, this funding can be used to create a relevant size and install it in a real application to help discern actual real life boundaries and obstacles.

This is exactly what we needed. I wish we had it earlier.

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