Advanced Manufacturing & Nanotechnology

Curious about Advanced Manufacturing & Nanotechnology? We have broken up potential investment areas into 16 categories. See what we are looking to fund and learn about the space. If anything below seems interesting, learn more at the National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Program.

Advanced Manufacturing

The Advanced Manufacturing subtopic aims to support all current and emerging aspects of manufacturing innovations that have the potential to rejuvenate the nation’s manufacturing sector and also improve its efficiency, competitiveness, and sustainability. Proposals should be driven by societal/market needs and opportunities, and should identify both the end users of the proposed technology and the proposed pathway to commercialization. Proposals that are based on commercially sustainable technical innovations that primarily aim to create positive and enduring social impact are also encouraged.

Personalized Manufacturing

Proposals centered on innovative, new-to-the-world manufacturing methods and machines leading to mass customization are invited. The applications may include (but are not limited to) clothing, footwear, furniture, ear buds, headbands, hearing aids etc. The resultant products may need to be cost competitive with the relevant mass manufactured products. Proposals may include development of software-as-a-service or workflow-as-a-service tools to assist young personalized manufacturing businesses.

Maker Manufacturing

Makers represent a wellspring of innovation, creating new products and often manufacturing them. Proposals having roots in such activities, involving innovations in one or more stages of design, engineering, and manufacturing and having significant commercialization potential are solicited. Commercially sustainable ideas that seek to address significant local, national, or global societal problems (e.g., energy/water/ resource conservation, youth unemployment), or enable spreading of citizen science through such innovations are especially encouraged.

Maker to Manufacturer

Proposals are invited that are focused on innovative, high-risk technologies that hold the potential to enable small-, medium-, and large-volume manufacturing of cutting-edge, high-value added products leveraging the maker movement. This may include hardware, software, knowledge transfer platforms, and other innovations.

Additive Manufacturing

Innovations in processes or machines that permit manufacturing through a layering process, including 3D printing, to achieve fabrication of a range of products including near net shape products. Proposals by young companies to develop sustainable businesses based on 3D printing including those in architecture, design, and construction are especially encouraged. Proposals are also encouraged that permit the manufacturing of complex multi-scale and/or multi-functional products for superior performance and productivity.

Modeling & Simulation

Innovations in the modeling and simulation of enterprise operations, manufacturing processes for intermediate or finished products, machines and equipment, predictive modeling of tooling and machine performance and discrete event simulation of manufacturing systems. Innovative approaches that bring the benefits of cloud computing and/or big data analytics to the manufacturing sector are especially encouraged. Virtual manufacturing software products that allow designers to create a three-dimensional (3-D) model of a product and then virtually test the efficiency of its performance are also relevant. Technologies enabling real-time prediction or optimization are also encouraged.

Machines and Equipment

Innovative machines and equipment in a range of operations for making nano-, micro-, and macro-scale products in all industries, from biomedical engineering and flexible electronics, to manufacturing, mineral processing, agriculture, construction, and recycling. Innovative equipment modification or retrofitting to enable manufacturing of completely new products is encouraged.

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.

Rare Earths and Critical Materials Processing Technology

Researchers designed and tested several types of optical sensors that could be placed at the tip of an epidural needle and determined that the best is one that relies on Raman spectroscopy. This technique, which uses light to measure energy shifts in molecular vibrations, offers detailed information about the chemical composition of tissue. Courtesy of news.mit.edu

Proposals of interest would involve production technologies enabling the development of new sources for rare earths, metals, and critical materials of strategic national importance; improving the economics of existing sources; accelerating the development and deployment of alternatives to rare earths and critical materials currently in use; technologies and processes for more efficient use in manufacturing; recycling and reuse; new processes for critical and strategic metals and minerals extraction; novel purification processes; recycle and recovery by separation of rare earths and strategic materials from waste; novel ways to reduce the amount of critical materials currently utilized in current and emerging technology products.

Manufacturing Technologies

Innovative technologies for the processing of a variety of materials, including metals, alloys, ceramics, polymers, and novel composites using processes such as casting, forming, machining, and joining. Proposals that lead to significantly improved efficiency (in terms of materials, energy, time, or money) and sustainability are encouraged. The topic also includes on-line detection and/or control of defects in those processes. Unique approaches using augmented reality for teaching and implementing manufacturing procedures are welcome. Proposals involving new process technologies for the production of novel materials may also include (and not limited to) high-performance bio-materials, inorganic and composite materials, alloys, novel materials with optimized design at an atomic scale, nano- and micro-scale metallic materials, and nano-materials and metallurgical products of commercial relevance.

Bio-Inspired Manufacturing

Industry has traditionally used “heat, beat, and treat” strategies to build products. Nature, on the other hand, manufactures at ambient temperatures and pressures, with non-toxic chemistry. Also, in nature everything is a resource and everything is recycled — one of the most fundamental attributes of sustainability. Bio-inspired manufacturing methods mimic these features and offer significant opportunities from both an economic and environmental standpoints. Proposals are invited that employ bio-inspired manufacturing methods to build innovative new products that could transform the manufacturing industry.

People-Centered Industrial Technologies

This subtopic seeks proposals aimed at combining the reach of the internet with new ability to directly connect and seamlessly integrate the modern industrial landscape defined by machines, factories, farmlands, and infrastructure. Such proposals may aim at (but not limited to) development of innovative technologies that would promote creation of entirely new types of industrial jobs requiring complementary human-digital workforce, and create desired products and services at the right scale, speed, and level of personalization.

Manufacturing for Emerging Markets

Transformative technological innovations that enable the manufacturing of ultra-low-cost products designed to tap into the vast commercial potential of global underserved markets. The proposals must aim to produce products that are affordable and that have significant societal impact in the intended markets such as enhancing accessibility, reducing environmental impact, improving health, etc.

Sustainable Manufacturing Technology

Proposals may cover technologies that present new process and system design paradigms, employ internet-of-things to dynamically optimize complex industrial manufacturing processes, enhance environmental sustainability with reductions in carbon footprint and/or water usage, and promote the sourcing, use, and recycle of materials and energy streams; technologies that take a systems approach to green engineering for industrial, residential, and commercial infrastructure, industrial manufacturing infrastructure design innovations; novel tools for the real-time analysis of system performance and the dynamic global optimization of system performance; innovations in technologies for the improved efficiency, control; new technologies (involving materials, sensors, devices, and control systems) that support smart infrastructures to ensure efficient and sustainable energy transmission, distribution, monitoring, and management.

Nanotechnology

The Nanotechnology subtopic addresses the creation and manipulation of functional materials, devices, and systems with novel properties and functions that are achieved through the control of matter at a submicroscopic scale (from a fraction of nanometer to about 100 nanometers). Proposals should be driven by market needs and demand and should identify both the end users of the proposed technology and the pathway to commercialization. Proposals that are based on commercially sustainable technical innovations that primarily aim to create positive and enduring social impact are also encouraged.

Nanomaterials

This diagram shows the difference between regular and plasmonic gratings in terms of fluorescent intensity. Photo courtesy of Shubhra Gangopadhyay/Nanoscale. Courtesy of nbsubscribe.missouri.edu

Proposals may include material innovations in scalable synthesis, purification, and processing techniques for hierarchical nanostructures, nanolayered structures, nanowires, nanotubes, quantum dots, nanoparticles, nanofibers, and other nanomaterials.

Nanomanufacturing

Proposals that seek to develop innovative processes, including self-assembly, nanolithography, nano-patterning, nano-texturing, nano-3D printing etc., techniques, and equipment for the low-cost, large-area or continuous manufacturing of nano-to micro-scale structures and their assembly/integration into higher order systems are encouraged.

Nanotechnology Based Solutions to Grand Challenges

Proposals focusing on global technological challenges through development of innovative nanotechnologies are solicited. Examples of such challenges include (but not limited to) desalination of seawater to solve the emerging water crisis, solar energy collection, storage, and conversion — for contributing to energy solutions for the future, and solid-state refrigeration for reducing global greenhouse emissions.


What is the National Science Foundation?

As described in our strategic plan, NSF is the only federal agency whose mission includes support for all fields of fundamental science and engineering, except for medical sciences. We are tasked with keeping the United States at the leading edge of discovery in areas from astronomy to geology to zoology. So, in addition to funding research in the traditional academic areas, the agency also supports “high-risk, high pay-off” ideas, novel collaborations and numerous projects that may seem like science fiction today, but which the public will take for granted tomorrow. And in every case, we ensure that research is fully integrated with education so that today’s revolutionary work will also be training tomorrow’s top scientists and engineers.

Small Business Innovation Research

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards nearly $190 million annually to startups and small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. The non-dilutive grants support research and development (R&D) across almost all areas of science and technology helping companies de-risk technology for commercial success.

To learn more about SBIR/STTR, visit NSF-SBIR.

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