Skip to main content

Collaborative Seed Grants


The goal of this program is to support teams of PIs at the University of Washington to go after large, center-scale, team-based proposals to transform clean energy science and technology. Collaborative Seed Grants provide scholars the freedom to explore novel, high-risk/high-reward research topics while seeding new collaborations in research and education that raise the profile of CEI in ways that significantly increase the prospects for future extramural support.

Scope & Eligibility

Proposals are invited from teams of PIs to support ambitious, forward-looking research and educational plans with the specific goal of seeding a specific future collaborative extramural grant application (ERC, STC, MRSEC, MURI, NRT, NSF CBET, MRSEC IRG etc.) that has a strong component in the core CEI research areas of solar energy, energy storage, grid systems integration/smart grid science and technology, and/or advanced energy materials. Single PI grants will not be considered. 

Financial Support

Budgets should be appropriate to the scope of the project. The maximum funding amount is $100,000, though proposals requesting the maximum are less likely to succeed. Graduate student funding comes with state tuition waivers included and is thus encouraged as the most cost-effective way to utilize this support, however, requests for postdoctoral or staff funding accompanied by strong justification will be considered.  Summer salary and teaching buyout time are discouraged and will not be routinely supported, but may be permitted if justified by commitments of the PI above and beyond the routine direction of novel research (and approved by the home department in the case of teaching buyout). Please note that we WILL consider teaching buyout to support PIs who have advanced to the full proposal or site visit stage of highly-competitive, complex, multi-year (e.g. ERC, STC) proposals. These funds can also be used to support resources such as visualization and/or illustration services, red team review services, and science writers that would enhance the competitiveness of submissions.

Proposal Submission

PIs should complete the online application and upload a single PDF proposal that includes the following:

(i) cover page

(ii) project description (max one page)

(iii) budget justification

(iv) current and pending support for the PIs

(v) CVs of the PIs

(vi) Budget excel sheet

» See application for detailed proposal requirements.


Proposals submitted by April 20, 2022 will be ranked and scored in parallel with the CEI Grad Fellowship application. Proposals submitted after April 20, 2022 will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Evaluation & Decision

Decisions will be made on an ongoing basis. Evaluation criteria will emphasize: (i) likelihood the results will lead to new extramural funding at UW, (ii) relevance to the CEI mission areas.

2022 Review Criteria – CEI Collaborative Seed Grants

Selected Projects


Inverted Aqueous Zinc-Ion Batteries

While lithium-ion batteries (LIBs) are ubiquitous in modern consumer electronics and electric vehicles thanks to their high energy density and well-understood chemistry, their reliance on scarce lithium metal and flammable organic electrolytes means that alternative designs may find a foothold in applications like long-term, grid-scale storage or wearable electronics. Aqueous zinc-ion batteries (ZIBs) are a particularly attractive alternative thanks to low-cost, non‐toxic, simple, and mature processing, but their development has been limited by the lack of high-performance cathodes and fundamental understanding of the more complex ion-storage chemistry.

Samson A. Jenekhe (chemical engineering, chemistry) and Guozhong Cao (MSE) aim to demonstrate an “inverted” ZIB that uses zinc metal as the cathode instead of the anode, which they believe may minimize or eliminate operational deficiencies related to conventional ZIB electrochemistry. The PIs will explore various novel materials as possible anodes, including a semiconducting organic polymer, a layered vanadium oxide, and complex oxides that contain at least five different transition metals. The data generated under the seed grant will enable the formulation of major hypotheses to drive external grant proposals. In the long run, the team aims to add 2-3 PIs and compete for external funding from programs such as NSF’s MRG and ERC, ARPA-E, industry consortiums, and MURI.

Integrated Design, Evaluation, & Automation of Materials for Advanced Photonics (IDEA-MAP)

PI Cody Schlenker (chemistry) and co-PIs Lilo Pozzo (chemical engineering, MSE), Matthew Golder (chemistry), Munira Khalil (chemistry), Sotiris Xantheas (chemistry via PNNL), and Xiaosong Li (chemistry) will integrate computational chemistry, machine learning, spectroscopy, automated chemical synthesis, and high-throughput screening to develop new molecules for near-infrared (NIR) photon upconversion in next-generation solar photovoltaics. This “fusing” of solar NIR light into visible light that can be harvested by today’s PV modules could boost power conversion efficiencies by more than 10%; analysts suggest that if upconversion can be achieved at 1% of PV module cost, it could revolutionize the $100 billion global solar market.

The team will use initial results to apply for NSF Designing Materials to Revolutionize and Engineer our Future (DMREF) funding in 2023, with a longer-term goal of securing broader MURI and center-level funding for Integrated Design, Evaluation, & Automation of Materials for Advanced Photonics (IDEA-MAP) and other clean energy technology initiatives, e.g., in batteries. The team also plans to interface with community and tribal colleges, developing Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) in Chemistry, Engineering, and Robotics.

Moiré superlattices boosted hydrogen evolution reaction

The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced billions of dollars in funding for Hydrogen Hubs via the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which emphasized hydrogen as a critical part in the comprehensive energy portfolio of the United States.

Xiaodong Xu (physics) and Jihui Yang (MSE) will study the possible use of two-dimensional semiconductors as an efficient alternative to precious metals in electrocatalysts for hydrogen fuel cells. The PIs have previously demonstrated the ability to layer these atomically-thin materials with a relative twist, resulting in the formation of a “Moiré superlattice” across the layers with highly tunable electronic properties. The PIs have also developed spectroscopic techniques to analyze the performance of the Moiré superlattice materials in the hydrogen evolution reaction. The team aims to apply for a DOE EFRC award in 2024.