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Technologies for Characterizing and Monitoring Complex Subsurface Systems

Please Note that a Letter of Intent is due Tuesday, September 08, 2015 5:00pm ET Program Area OverviewOffice of Biological and Environmental Research  The Biological and Environmental Research (BER) Program supports fundamental, peer_reviewed research on complex systems in climate change, subsurface biogeochemistry, genomics, systems biology, radiation biology, radiochemistry, and instrumentation. BER funds research at public and private research institutions and at DOE laboratories. BER also supports leading edge National Scientific User Facilities including the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), the Environmental Molecular Science Laboratory (EMSL), the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility and instrumentation for structural biology research at the DOE Synchrotron Light and Neutron sources.  BER has interests in the following areas:  1)    Biological Systems Science integrates discovery_ and hypothesis_driven science with technology development on plant and microbial systems relevant to DOE bioenergy mission needs. Systems biology is the multidisciplinary study of complex interactions specifying the function of entire biological systems?from single cells to multicellular organisms?rather than the study of individual components. The Biological Systems Science subprogram focuses on utilizing systems biology approaches to define the functional principles that drive living systems, from microbes and microbial communities to plants and other whole organisms. Key questions that drive this research include: What information is encoded in the genome sequence? How is information exchanged between different sub_cellular constituents? What molecular interactions regulate the response of living systems and how can those interactions be understood dynamically and predictively? The approaches employed include genome sequencing, proteomics, metabolomics, structural biology, high resolution imaging and characterization, and integration of information into predictive computational models of biological systems that can be tested and validated.   The subprogram supports operation of a scientific user facility, the DOE Joint Genome Institute (JGI), and access to structural biology facilities at the DOE Synchrotron Light and Neutron Sources. Support is also provided for research at the interface of the biological and physical sciences and in radiochemistry and instrumentation to develop new methods for real_time, high_resolution imaging of dynamic biological processes.   2)    The Climate and Environmental Sciences subprogram focuses on a predictive, systems_level understanding of the fundamental science associated with climate change and DOE?s environmental challenges?both key to supporting the DOE mission. The subprogram supports an integrated portfolio of research from molecular level to field_scale studies with emphasis on multidisciplinary experimentation and use of advanced computer models. The science and research capabilities enable DOE leadership in climate_relevant atmospheric_process research and modeling, including clouds, aerosols, and the terrestrial carbon cycle; large_scale climate change modeling; integrated analysis of climate change impacts; and advancing fundamental understanding of coupled physical, chemical, and biological processes controlling contaminant mobility in the environment.  The subprogram supports three primary research activities and two national scientific user facilities.  Atmospheric System Research seeks to resolve the two major areas of uncertainty in climate change model projections: the role of clouds and the effects of aerosols on the atmospheric radiation balance.  Environmental System Science supports research that provides scientific understanding of the effects of climate change on terrestrial ecosystems, the role of terrestrial ecosystems in global carbon cycling, and the role of subsurface biogeochemistry in controlling the fate and transport of energy_relevant elements.  Climate and Earth System Modeling focuses on development, evaluation, and use of large scale climate change models to determine the impacts of climate change and mitigation options.   Two scientific user facilities the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Climate Research Facility and the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) provide the broad scientific community with technical capabilities, scientific expertise, and unique information to facilitate science in areas integral to the BER mission and of importance to DOE.   For additional information regarding the Office of Biological and Environmental Research priorities, click here.TOPIC 18:  Technologies for Characterizing and Monitoring Complex Subsurface Systems  Maximum Phase I Award Amount:  $225,000 Maximum Phase II Award Amount:  $1,500,000 Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications:  YES Accepting SBIR Fast_Track Applications:  NO Accepting STTR Phase I Applications:  YES Accepting STTR Fast_Track Applications:  NO  Reactive transport models are increasingly used to model hydrobiogeochemical processes in complex subsurface systems (soils, rhizosphere, sediments, aquifers and the vadose zone) for many different applications and across a wide range of temporal and spatial (e.g., pore to core to plot to watershed) scales. With increasing computational capability it is possible to simulate the coupled interactions of complex subsurface systems with high fidelity. The predictive skill of these advanced models is limited, however, by the accuracy of the parameters that are used to populate the models and represent the system structure and intrinsic properties. Furthermore, robust testing of these increasingly complex models requires high fidelity measurements of the hydrobiogeochemical structure and functioning of the complex subsurface systems over the relevant spatial and temporal scales.  The focus of this topic is on the development of improved sensing systems for capturing the in_situ hydrobiogeochemical structure and functioning of complex subsurface systems because they serve as the substrate for natural, disturbed and managed terrestrial vegetation systems.  Grant applications submitted to this topic must describe why and how the proposed in situ fieldable technologies will substantially improve the state_of_the_art, include bench and/or field tests to demonstrate the technology, and clearly state the projected dates for likely operational deployment. New or advanced technologies, which can be demonstrated to operate under field conditions and can be deployed in 2_3 years, will receive selection priority. Claims of relevance to field sites or locations under investigation by DOE, or of commercial potential for proposed technologies, must be supported by endorsements from relevant site managers, market analyses, or the identification of commercial spin_offs. Grant applications that propose incremental improvements to existing technologies are not of interest and will be declined. Collaboration with government laboratories or universities, either during or after the SBIR/STTR project, may speed the development and field evaluation of the measurement or monitoring technology. BER funding to the National Laboratories is primarily through Scientific Focus Areas (SFAs). The Subsurface Biogeochemical Research (SBR) supported SFAs, and the field sites where they conduct their research, are described at the following website: https://doesbr.org/research/sfa/index.shtml. The Terrestrial Ecosystem Science (TES) program also supports several interdisciplinary field research projects focused on carbon and nutrient cycling: https://tes.science.energy.gov/research/ameriflux.shtml; https://tes.science.energy.gov/research/criticalecosystems.shtml. These field research sites may also be appropriate venues for testing and evaluation of novel measurement and monitoring technologies. Proposed plans to conduct testing at these DOE supported research sites should be accompanied by a letter of support from the project PI. Grant applications must describe, in the technical approach or work plan, the purpose and specific benefits of any proposed teaming arrangements. Grant applications are sought in the following subtopics: a. Real_Time, In Situ Measurements of Hydrobiogeochemical and Microbial Processes in Complex Subsurface Systems Sensitive, accurate, and real_time monitoring of hydrobiogeochemical processes are needed in subsurface environments, including soils, the rhizosphere, sediments, the vadose_zone and groundwaters. In particular, highly selective, sensitive, and rugged in situ devices are needed for low_cost field deployment in remote locations, in order to enhance our ability to monitor processes at finer levels of resolution and over broader areas. Therefore, grant applications are sought to develop improved approaches for the autonomous and continuous sensing of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus in situ; improved methods to measure and monitor dissolved oxygen, vertically resolved soil moisture distributions, and groundwater age.   The ability to distinguish between the relevant oxidation states of redox sensitive elements such as iron, manganese, sulfur and other inorganics is of particular concern. Innovative approaches for monitoring multi_component biogeochemical signatures of subsurface systems is also of interest, as is the development of robust field instruments for multi_isotope and quasi_real time analyses of suites of isotope systems of relevance to hydrologic and biogeochemical studies (e.g. 2H, 18O, CH4, CO2, nitrogen compounds, etc.).  Grant applications must provide convincing documentation (experimental data, calculations, and simulation as appropriate) to show that the sensing method is both highly sensitive (i.e., low detection limit), precise, and highly selective to the target analyte, microbe or microbial association (i.e., free of anticipated physical/chemical/biological interferences). Approaches that leave significant doubt regarding sensor functionality in realistic multi_component samples and realistic field conditions will not be considered.   Grant applications also are sought to develop integrated sensing systems for autonomous or unattended applications of the above measurement needs. The integrated system should include all of the components necessary for a complete sensor package (such as micro_machined pumps, valves, microsensors, solar power cells, etc.) for field applications in the subsurface. Approaches of interest include: (1) automated sample collection and monitoring of subsurface biogeochemistry and microbiology community structure, (2) fiber optic, solid_state, chemical, or silicon micro_machined sensors; and (3) biosensors (devices employing biological molecules or systems in the sensing elements) that can be used in the field ? biosensor systems may incorporate, but are not limited to, whole cell biosensors (i.e., chemiluminescent or bioluminescent systems), enzyme or immunology_linked detection systems (e.g., enzyme_linked immunosensors incorporating colorimetric or fluorescent portable detectors), lipid characterization systems, or DNA/RNA probe technology with amplification and hybridization. Grant applications that propose minor adaptations of readily available materials/hardware, and/or cannot demonstrate substantial improvements over the current state_of_the_art are not of interest and will be declined.   Questions ? Contact: David Lesmes, david.lesmes@science.doe.gov b. Other  In addition to the specific subtopic listed above, the Department invites grant applications in other areas that fall within the scope of the topic description above.         Questions ? Contact: David Lesmes, david.lesmes@science.doe.gov 

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