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Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) & Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) Program


small business innovation research
seed money for high risk, high reward private sector ventures


Cognizant Program Director: Prakash Balan, pbalan@nsf.gov
This page describes the subtopics under the topic area of Chemical and Environmental Technologies (CT) for the current NSF SBIR and STTR solicitations.

Return to the list of all topics HERE.

Start your application today for SBIR or STTR funding!

The Chemical and Environmental Technologies (CT) topic covers a wide range of technology areas of current and emerging commercial significance in the broad and multifaceted chemical process industry. Proposals of relevance would seek to develop and commercialize novel technology with a core focus on sustainability in one or more arenas such as design, synthesis, processing, use, disposal, and reuse/recycle/recovery of chemical and biochemical substances and products. Phase I proposals would typically be at the proof of concept/technical feasibility stage on new or novel technology concepts when submitting to this overall topic area. A proposal should present a clear value proposition, a strategy for commercialization of the innovation, and an explanation of how the project could rapidly lead to revenue generation for the small business. It is important that the proposed project involve novel, discontinuous, disruptive innovations; be responsive to strong industrial and societal needs; and focus on addressing real problems driven by critical market requirements while catalyzing the acceleration of U.S. job creation through strong business growth.

CT1. Bio-Based Chemical Technology
Relevant projects would involve novel biochemical process technologies using engineered organisms and biocatalysts for the conversion of renewable raw material to cost-competitive products that represent sustainable alternatives to commercial industrial commodity, specialty and fine chemicals and products derived from non-renewable sources. Projects proposed should also be built on sustainable, energy efficient, and waste minimization or elimination process technologies.

CT2. Separation Technology
Relevant projects could involve any separation technology that enables and/or enhances the efficiency of separations in existing or new process technologies with a focus on enhanced energy efficiency and reduced capital requirements. Application areas include (but are not limited to) separations for multi-component solid, liquid, and gas streams; separation technologies in both inorganic and organic chemical applications; novel purification processes; recycle and recovery of higher value materials from waste; air pollution mitigation to remove gaseous pollutants, particulates, and pathogens. Novel separation techniques and media as disruptive improvements to current established separation technologies are encouraged, including (but not limited to) organic/inorganic membranes,porous media, structured materials for drinking water and wastewater treatment; food, medical, and pharmaceutical applications; industrial chemicals; and microelectronics applications.

CT3. Renewable and Biodegradable Polymers Technology
Proposals could include technologies related to production of novel sustainable polymeric materials that are cost competitive, have superior engineering performance characteristics compared to existing commercial products, and that are biodegradable, have reduced toxicity and substantial recyclability. Projects may involve (but are not limited to) the development of novel polymeric materials and coatings from recycled materials or from a bio-based or renewable feed stock source; sustainable packaging materials for food and non-food applications; self-healing polymers; bioengineered plastics and biochemically produced polymers and precursors that lead to biodegradable polymers.

CT4. Novel Chemical Process and Catalytic Technology 
Processes that chemically or biochemically (including catalytic/biocatalytic approaches) produce chemical products from renewable and abundant natural resources with substantially improved energy efficiency and reduced environmental impact compared to current approaches. New or novel green chemistry processes; technologies involving the development of novel homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysts and biocatalysts, co-catalysts, promoters, and/or supports that are highly active, selective, and long-lived compared to the state-of-the-art; sustainable catalysts that are based on environmentally friendly and non-toxic metals, non-metallic, and earth-abundant elements; catalysts enabling the simplification of complex multistep chemistries into fewer steps and ideally a single step, with byproduct elimination and substantial reductions in energy costs and capital equipment costs, which lead to superior or new process technology alternatives to existing technologies.

CT5. Carbon Dioxide and Methane Conversion to Industrial Chemicals
Proposals of interest would seek to develop and commercialize processes for efficient carbon dioxide capture from concentrated industrial exhaust sources and pathways for its conversion to value-added industrial chemicals and products resulting in net carbon sequestration on a life cycle analysis. Proposals of interest would also include those with catalytic chemical process technologies for the conversion of methane (from natural gas, landfills, wastewater treatment, etc.) to industrial chemicals; novel catalytic process technologies to directly convert captured carbon dioxide to methanol through non syngas routes, as well as novel catalytic technologies to convert methane directly to methanol and hydrocarbons and value-added chemicals (through non syngas routes). Approaches could include novel biochemical pathways.

CT6. Food Technology
Proposals of interest could involve the development of materials and methods and substitutes that meaningfully reduce dietary calories in processed foods; chemistry and formulations to influence energy intake to reduce and prevent obesity; Proposals of interest may include developing novel food processing technologies for better quality and nutritional value; improving process monitoring, control, and sensing technologies for food quality and safety; sustainable food packaging materials; novel food storage technologies; technology to reduce food wastage in the farm-to-consumer supply chain; innovations in transportation and the distribution of food that conserve the food supply and lead to lower wastage; real-time microbial contamination sensing and control, the removal of toxic compounds from processed food, animal, and dairy products, eliminating health hazards.

CT7. Sustainable Technologies for Energy Efficiency, Capture, Storage and Use 
Proposed projects might include novel technology and approaches for the direct capture, conversion, storage, and use of any renewable energy sources; and  waste heat recovery. Projects may include novel technology that leads to substantial enhancement in energy storage capacity, energy use efficiency, energy management, and energy recovery from waste streams compared to currently available technologies in any applications, including (but not limited to) residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Technologies may include combinations of mechanical, electrical, electrochemical, chemical/material, and biochemical approaches. Innovations for existing or novel energy storage techniques (such as batteries, capacitors, supercapacitors) are also relevant; nature-inspired processes for sustainable energy generation or capture; innovations in lubrication/tribology leading to reduced energy intensity in the chemical process industry; portable energy generation technologies that completely rely on renewable sources to allow supporting industrial energy needs in remote off-grid and underdeveloped economic regions.

CT8. Bioenergy and Renewable Fuels Technology
Proposed projects might include new and novel methods to generate energy from marine, plant, algal, and microbial bio-energy sources; hydrogen production; innovations in high-yielding biomass crops for energy and chemicals production that do not compete with food supply. Proposed projects might involve the development of new, commercially viable renewable fuel options with reduced environmental impact relative to existing fuels, including (but not limited to) drop-in replacements to petroleum-based transportation fuels.

CT9. Water, Waste Treatment, and Environmental Sustainability 
Proposed projects may present novel process and product technologies for commercially attractive energy efficient pollution prevention, treatment and remediation, water treatment (drinking water and wastewater), as well as novel technologies for energy efficient recycle and the reuse of water and waste streams. Technologies proposed should be significant breakthroughs or enhancements relative to the current state of the art and seek to address current and emerging industrial/municipal and agricultural needs, resulting in a reduced carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. The proposed projects could seek to develop solutions spanning a broad spectrum of operational scales including point of use, portable, off-grid, and fixed installations for municipal, industrial, and agricultural waste, water and wastewater treatment, and recycle and reuse. Projects of interest may seek to develop technologies that provide new pathways for the collection, recycle, and reuse of post-consumer and industrial waste, waste chemical, polymeric materials, plastics, etc.

CT10. Environmental Pollution Monitoring and Mitigation
Proposed projects may include methods to reduce human ecological and environmental impacts; microbial contamination sensing and control; the removal of toxic compounds for human and animal safety; novel bioremediation technologies; air pollution monitoring and mitigation to remove gaseous pollutants and particulates, improving environmental compatibility and sustainability; and pathogen and toxin diagnostics technologies. Projects could involve real-time sensing, the monitoring and tracking technology of pollutants that are currently regulated as well as newer, emerging, non-regulated contaminants that could have potentially broad and deleterious environmental, health, and safety impact.

CT11. Renewable Feedstocks through Sustainable Agriculture and Forestry Technology
Technologies that allow for the more effective use of renewable forestry as a biomass feedstock through biochemical or green chemistry pathways for the production of wood-based fuels and industrial chemicals, such as cellulosic fibers, lignin-based materials, plastics from cellulose, food packaging and building materials, coatings, sealants, elastomers, adhesives, etc. Technologies that allow the more efficient processing of wood for industrial use and technologies that enhance the renewal and management of forests for sustainable industrial and commercial use would be relevant. Technologies that increase the efficiency of nutrient assimilation; sustainable and commercially viable precision agricultural and forestry technologies; high productivity harvesting technology; soil, environmental sensing, and monitoring technologies that improve forest and agricultural crop management and productivity, reduce carbon foot print, and enhance the sustainability of silviculture/agricultural practices.

CT12. Transportation Technologies
Proposed projects might include (but are not limited to) the reduction of engine emissions; the reduction of greenhouse gases resulting from combustion; vehicle weight reduction; vehicle components; improved engine and fuel efficiency; reduction of SOx, NOx, and particulates resulting from combustion; reduction in wear and environmental pollutants. Projects may include technologies of commercial importance for low-temperature combustion, flexible fuel and fuel blends for automotive applications, improved atomizers and ignition characteristics, low heat-loss (coatings, materials, etc.) engines, on-board energy harvesting (e.g., thermoelectric generators), energy conversion and storage, improved catalyst systems, and other alternative technologies to improve fuel efficiency, reduce energy loss, and reduce environmental emissions; advanced batteries for transportation, including radically new battery systems or breakthroughs based on existing systems with a focus on high-energy density and high-power density batteries suitable for transportation applications.



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