• Sustainable Transportation Networks
    Get the report
  • Open Call | Visioning Event Participants: Engineering Materials for a Sustainable Future
    Learn More
  • Webinar | Findings from the Report: Sustainable Transportation Networks
    Learn More
  • Leveraging Biology to Power Engineering Impact
    Get the report
  • NOMINATIONS OPEN! Engineering the Future of Distributed Manufacturing
    Learn More
  • Open Call | Submit your visioning theme idea
    Learn More
NSF Engineering Research
Visioning Alliance
Get involved

Call for Visioning Event Participants: Engineering Materials for a Sustainable Future

Photo 1 for call for visioning event participants: engineering materials for a sustainable future

This visioning event will convene top researchers from various sectors to consider the theme of Engineering Materials for a Sustainable Future.

July 25-26 • In-Person- IBM Almaden Research Facility, San Jose, CA

The goal of ERVA visioning events is to identify specific areas that are nascent or require additional exploration with the potential for the greatest return on investment. Accordingly, we seek multidisciplinary engineers and researchers who can help ERVA identify less-explored, basic, and use-inspired lines of research ripe for engineering community pursuit.

ERVA invites you to participate in an event to envision the future of sustainable materials and identify the emerging research opportunities where engineering can lead and accelerate our global competitiveness. This is an exceptional opportunity for your voice to be heard and influence the future engineering research funding landscape.

There is an urgent need to bring breakthrough materials research and development to the forefront of current sustainability efforts. Recent government action in the U.S. and globally has galvanized industries to pursue zero-carbon status. Corporate investors are also increasingly voicing interest in the development of sustainable materials solutions to enable a circular economy. This visioning workshop will unite researchers, industry leaders, policymakers, and investors to articulate materials engineering research priorities. This visioning event takes a holistic approach to discussing sustainable materials from the design stage, through scale-up and manufacturing, to the end-of-use scenarios for three key industries: chemical manufacturing, construction, and single-use consumer products.

Chemical manufacturing comprises ~40% of the GDP and is critical to creating fuel, fertilizers, plastics, pharmaceuticals, and many other necessary compounds. Yet, most catalytic reactions generally operate at high temperatures by burning petroleum fuels, generating significant greenhouse gas emissions and undesirable byproduct formation. Achieving precision chemistry, where reactions are simultaneously high-yield, product selective, and free from greenhouse-gas emissions, will be critical for a sustainable future. In parallel, the materials used in construction, such as steelmaking globally, account for ~3.8% of the GDP and ~8% of CO2 emissions, while concrete and cement account for an additional 8% of global CO2 emissions. While they are low-cost to produce, they are not easily recyclable. Balancing cost and performance while decarbonizing the processes to make construction materials is essential to achieve a zero-carbon future.

Finally, polymer chemistry provides us with cheap, durable, and customizable multilayer materials for a variety of single-use consumer product packaging; yet these attributes have given rise to massive waste accumulation and catastrophic greenhouse gas emissions. Biobased, compostable alternatives to traditional plastics rarely have equivalent functionality to their petroleum-based counterparts. Furthermore, energy-efficiency recycling methods for mixed materials waste streams remain an obstacle. In each of these industries, new materials utilizing renewable energy, renewable feedstocks, state-of-the-art chemistry, physics, synthetic biology, and artificial intelligence are required to enable net-zero or negative greenhouse gas emissions, increased recyclability/composability, and progress towards fully circular materials economy.

Travel funds will be made available to participants.

We are now accepting nominations for visioning event participants. Please follow the link below to nominate!

Nomination Evaluation Criteria

Participants will be evaluated on the merit of the candidate’s participation based on the following general criteria:

  • Research alignment. Alignment of candidate’s research interests and current research agenda with the event theme/goals;
  • Demonstrated expertise. Significance and uniqueness of contribution to relevant fields; and
  • Persuasive case. Evidence-base for nomination, as described by the nominator.

As there are limited spots and many nominees may meet the above criteria, participant selection will also take into account ERVA’s identity as a diverse, inclusive, and engaged partnership that enables an array of voices to impact national research priorities. Such considerations include an overall participant list diverse by dimensions including but not limited to:

  • research discipline;
  • geographic location;
  • organization sector and type;
  • gender;
  • race/ethnicity; and
  • career stage.

Decisions regarding nominee invitations to participate will be guided by the overall objective of ensuring a successful visioning event. Following a review of nominations, ERVA will notify candidates who are selected to participate. This could also include further contributions during or beyond the scope of the visioning event. Those nominees not selected for this event will be considered, as appropriate, for future ERVA visioning events and other activities.

Stay up to date on ERVA's latest news