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National Science Foundation HomeNational Science Foundation - Directorate for Engineering (ENG)
Chemical, Bioengineering Environmental and Transport Systems (CBET)
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About the Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental, & Transport Systems Division

The Chemical, Bioengineering, Environmental and Transport Systems Division (CBET) supports research and education in the rapidly evolving fields of bioengineering and environmental engineering and in areas that involve the transformation and/or transport of matter and energy by chemical, thermal, or mechanical means.  CBET research and education investments contribute significantly to the knowledge base and to the development of the workforce for major components of the U.S. economy, including chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, forest products, metals, petroleum, food, textiles, utilities, and microelectronics.  Support for environmental work encompasses pollution prevention and remediation as well as life cycle analysis.

CBET supports research in areas such as:

  • Catalysis and biocatalysis
  • Biotechnology
  • Bioengineering
  • Chemical and biochemical process design
  • Environmental engineering
  • Advanced materials
  • Fuel cells
  • Fluid flow
  • Combustion
  • Heat transfer
  • Particle processes for many applications including sensors and membranes

These investments contribute to advances that are important for the environment, energy, transportation, information technologies, health-related products, and other areas that impact our daily lives.

We fund research that contributes to the knowledge base of a large number of industrial manufacturing processes and also to some natural processes that involve the transformation and transport of matter and energy.  The transformation processes may be chemical, biological, physical, or a combination of these.  The industrial processes involve a wide range of technological pursuits and are found in areas such as as aerospace, electronics, chemicals, recovery of natural resources, the environment, petroleum, biochemicals, materials, food, power generation, and allied activities.

CBET supports research that involves the development of fundamental engineering principles, process control and optimization strategies, mathematical models, and experimental techniques, with an emphasis on projects that have the potential for innovation and broad application in areas such as the environment, materials, and chemical processing.  These principles are also applied to naturally occurring systems such as rivers and lakes, coastline areas, and the atmosphere, especially in populated areas.  Special emphasis is on environmentally benign chemical and material processing.

Current high-emphasis research and education areas include:

  • Post-genomic engineering
  • Tissue engineering
  • Biophotonics
  • Nano-biosystems
  • Engineering environmental analysis.
This fundamental research is leading to applications that include biosensors, biomaterials, controlled drug-release, bioimaging, medical devices and instrumentation, artificial organs, therapeutic agent bioprocessing, industrial bioproducts bioprocessing, bioremediation, ecological engineering, water and waste treatment, and food engineering.


CBET achieves these objectives across its four program clusters:

•  Chemical, Biochemical, and Biotechnology Systems
•  Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Healthcare
•  Environmental Engineering and Sustainability
•  Transport, Thermal, and Fluids Phenomena

Chemical, Biochemical, and Biotechnology Systems - - Supports fundamental and applied research on rates and mechanisms of important classes of catalyzed and uncatalyzed chemical reactions as they relate to the design, production, and application of catalysts, chemical processes, and specialized materials; chemical phenomena occurring at or near solid surfaces and interfaces; electrochemical and photochemical processes of engineering significance or with commercial potential; design and optimization of complex chemical processes; dynamic modeling and control of process systems and individual process units; reactive processing of polymers, ceramics, and thin films; and interactions between chemical reactions and transport processes in reactive systems and the use of this information in the design of complex chemical reactors.  Separations research is directed at many areas, with a special emphasis on bioprocessing and all forms of chromatographic, membrane, and special affinity separations.

Also expands the knowledge base of bioengineering at scales ranging from proteins and cells to organ systems, including mathematical models, devices and instrumentation systems.  Current interest areas include:

  • Tissue engineering and the development of biological substitutes; biosensors, i.e., devices that use a biological component
  • Food processing, especially with respect to food safety
  • Metabolic engineering, including the application of systems analysis tools to understand metabolic transport.

Biomedical Engineering and Engineering Healthcare - - Applies engineering principles to the understanding of living systems, development of new and improved devices, and products for human health care.  Emphasis is placed on fundamental engineering research that contributes to better and more efficient health care delivery and aid to people with disabilities.

The cluster focuses on:

  • High impact transforming technologies for deriving information from cells, tissues, organs, and organ systems
  • Extraction of useful information from complex biomedical signals
  • New approaches to the design of structures and materials for eventual medical use
  • Imaging and sensing for diagnostics and treatment
  • New methods of controlling living systems
This cluster is also directed toward the characterization, restoration, and/or substitution of normal functions in humans.

Environmental Engineering and Sustainability - - Supports fundamental research and education in energy production, conversion, and storage and is focused on energy sources that are environmentally friendly and renewable.  Improves our ability to apply engineering principles to avoid and/or correct problems that impair the usefulness of land, air and water.

Current interest areas include:

  • Environmental remediation, especially with respect to understanding the fate and transport of surface and groundwater pollutants
  • Novel processes for waste treatment
  • Industrial ecology
  • Technologies for the avoidance of pollution
  • Technology to limit fouling of the ocean.
Advances fundamental engineering knowledge of the ocean environment and develops technological innovation related to conservation, development, and use of the oceans and their resources.  This cluster focuses on research on innovative biological, chemical, and physical processes used alone or as components of engineered systems to restore the usefulness of polluted land, water, and air resources. Projects supported by these programs often involve collaborations with other programs within and outside of CBET.

Transport, Thermal, and Fluids Phenomena - - Supports research in areas related to interfacial phenomena, mass transport phenomena, and phase equilibrium thermodynamics.  Research in these areas supports various aspects of engineering technology, with the major focus on chemical and material processing and bioprocess engineering.  Research conducted in this program also contributes to the division's emphasis on the impact of basic knowledge on physicochemical hazardous waste treatment and avoidance, and surfaces with purification and sensors capabilities for chemical and biomaterials.  The program provides support for new theories and approaches that determine the functions and properties of novel soft materials at the interface, transport and thermodynamic properties of fluids and fluid mixtures in biological and other fluids with complex molecules.

Supports fundamental and applied research on mechanisms and phenomena that govern:

  • Single and multiphase fluid flow
  • Particle formation and transport
  • Multiphase processes
  • Nanostructures
  • Fluid and solid system interaction.
Research is sought that contributes to improving the basic understanding, design, predictability, efficiency, and control of existing systems that involve the dynamics of fluids and particulates and the innovative uses of fluids and particulates in materials development, manufacturing, biotechnology, and the environment.

Projects should seek a basic understanding at the microscopic and macroscopic levels of thermal phenomena underlying the production of energy, synthesis and processing of materials, cooling and heating of equipment, and biological systems and the interaction of industrial processes with the environment.  Higher priority goes to those projects that deal with problems on the cutting edge of technology while developing human resources in engineering.

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