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NSF enables groundbreaking science with $125 million in mid-scale infrastructure investment

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Newly funded projects will focus on learning the quantum properties of materials, deploying robotic sensor floats into the oceans, and advancing the power grids of the future.
Credit: (Left to right) Cornell University; SOCCOM; University of California San Diego

October 29, 2020

For decades, the U.S. National Science Foundation has funded infrastructure that allows scientists to push the frontiers of science and engineering. Agency-wide programs have supported construction of large facilities and small instruments, but until recently, NSF had no such program dedicated to mid-scale projects that fall between those categories. Mid-scale infrastructure projects enable breakthroughs that can only be achieved by this scale of investment. NSF has identified the need to fill this nationwide gap in mid-scale infrastructure and is awarding $125 million to support three new projects that address critical challenges.   

"U.S. researchers need cutting-edge tools to stay at the forefront of science and technology," said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. "For decades, mid-scale research facilities helped make up the backbone of our country’s science and engineering infrastructure, but with few dedicated funding sources, researchers had few places to seek support. NSF set out to change that. We are proud to announce these three new facilities that promise to advance the frontiers of quantum technology, ocean research and next-generation energy resources."

This year's $125 million in awards are for a class of "shovel ready" projects in the $20 to $70 million range. The projects will combine equipment, instrumentation and research staff with the expertise necessary for innovation. Each will also provide opportunities for community engagement, education and training.

The three new facilities are:

  • High Magnetic Field Beamline at the Cornell High Energy Synchrotron Source will equip one of the world's most powerful X-ray light sources with unprecedented capabilities to learn about the quantum properties of materials. The new beamline, a system that creates a path for accelerated particles, will feature the highest direct current magnetic fields available at any synchrotron particle accelerator facility in the world. This new capability holds the potential for advances in quantum sensing and quantum computing. CHESS will partner with NSF-funded National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras to design and implement technology and train early career researchers from groups underrepresented in STEM.
  • Global Ocean Biogeochemistry Array will release a network of 500 robotic floats into the ocean to collect chemistry and biology data from the surface down to a depth of more than 1 mile. Five research institutions, led by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, will work with industry partners to construct the floats. This array will improve and expand monitoring of the ocean's health, including the health of ocean life and fisheries, by measuring temperature, depth, salinity, oxygen concentration, acidity, nitrate concentration, sunlight, chlorophyll and particles in the water. Researchers, educators and decision-makers around the world will have free access to the collected data in near real time.  An outreach program will work to diversify the workforce through undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral programs, scientific training workshops, and building curricula with educators.
  • Grid-Connected Testing Infrastructure for Networked Control of Distributed Energy Resources will provide unique, open-access assets with the potential to advance the integration of renewables and distributed energy resources into the power grids of the future. Based at the University of California, San Diego, this testbed will incorporate real-time data analytics, machine learning and distributed control algorithms. The facility, which researchers around the country will be able to access remotely, will provide outreach to students and teachers at local K-12 schools and community colleges as well as offer training to Native American tribes who rely on microgrids for electricity.

More information about Mid-Scale Research Infrastructure can be found on

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