September 6, 2021

Environmental considerations for soft electronics systems and energy sources request for proposals

Deadline October 12, 2021
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About

The development of new soft materials may help make sophisticated and comfortable consumer devices ubiquitous in our daily lives. While dramatically improving many facets of life, the proliferation of ubiquitous volumes of consumer electronics poses ethical and societal challenges, namely in the generation and accumulation of electronic waste (e-waste) and the dependence on rare minerals for the manufacture and powering these devices. Currently, the power requirements of portable consumer electronics devices is limited by commercial solutions in a narrow set of battery material systems. These limitations rely on materials that are either inherently unsafe or material sets that face future scarcity issues if reclaim technologies do not scale with proliferation. Neither outcome is desirable to consumers. Additional challenges result from the materials and manufacturing processes of electronics in general that require the sourcing of materials that have large environmental and societal impacts both during extraction and end-of-life disposal. To anticipate and mitigate the challenges related to energy storage and harvesting for consumer electronics as well as general mitigation of e-waste, technology developers must look for system-level solutions now.

To foster further innovation in this area, and to deepen our collaboration with academia, Facebook is pleased to invite faculty to respond to this call to consider and address the ethical environmental impacts of consumer electronics energy systems and e-waste reclaim. We anticipate issuing up to a total of 20 awards, each in the 100k to 150k USD range. Payment will be made to the proposer’s host university as an unrestricted gift.

Applications are now open

Application Dates

  • Launch Date September 6, 2021
  • Deadline October 12, 2021
  • Winners Announced December 2021

Areas of Interest

Areas of interest for this RFP include evaluation of the ethical and environmental considerations of the development and decomposition of soft material technology. The proposals should focus on materials that could integrate into a consumer electronics device, and teams should consider systems that could fit around the forearm or wrist.

Teams do not need to optimize for the energy density of the battery, but should instead focus on frameworks and processes that promote ethical end-to-end technology development and use.

Materials and systems that are in scope for this RFP include the following:

  • Soft elastomeric energy systems, including storage and harvest
  • Batteries
  • Super capacitors
  • Environmental energy harvesting (e.g. thermal -> electrical, kinetic -> electrical)
  • Biodegradable, but performant, alternatives to standard flexible circuit materials (e.g. polyimide)

Materials and systems that are not in scope for this RFP:

  • Very small quantities of novel materials (e.g. producing very small quantities of a material that are not scalable)

Areas of interest include, but are not limited to, the following:

1. Ethically-robust framework for evaluating system decomposition
Proposals for this topic should focus on (1) defining an ethical framework for evaluating life-cycle analysis (LCA) processes for soft energy materials, and (2) developing and implementing a life-cycle analysis that is in line with this framework. The framework should capture the identification of any byproducts that may result from decomposition processes.

Proposals should include the following activities:

  • Defining an ethical framework for evaluating a life-cycle analysis process for soft energy materials.
  • Performing a life-cycle analysis and evaluating the effectiveness of the analysis for quantifying material system decomposition.
  • Quantifying the life-span and stability of the material.
  • Assessing the life-cycle analysis according to the ethical framework, and identify any ethical consideration gaps. Is there an ethical environmental consideration that is not being captured through this LCA method?
  • Demonstrating how the ethical framework can generalize to multiple soft materials.

2. Environmentally-friendly accelerated decomposition of soft or flexible battery materials
Proposals for this topic should focus on demonstrating and quantifying the environmental impact of accelerated decomposition for battery materials. The accelerated decomposition method of choice can be an established method, now applied to soft elastomers or flexible composites for consumer electronics technology, or a completely new method.

Proposals should include the following activities:

  • Establishing biodegradable electrolytes that are more environmentally friendly than lithium. Consider answering: what ethical framework would capture this advantage? Can you apply this framework to different battery technologies?
  • Demonstrating low energy methods that accelerate the decomposition of a soft or flexible energy material. Identify the stimuli that accelerate the decomposition
  • Quantifying the holistic environmental impact of the method, including the environmental impact of any byproducts of the decomposition processes.
  • Describing the choice of soft or flexible material, including a description of its usefulness for soft or flexible consumer technology.

3. Environmentally-friendly soft or flexible energy generating systems
Proposals for this topic should focus on the identification of environmentally-friendly, soft or flexible energy-generating systems. Proposals should also include a benchtop demonstration of how these materials could apply to small packages (equivalent in size to consumer electronics: smart phones, tablets, etc). The energy generator system can be an established environmentally-friendly material, now applied to soft or flexible for consumer technology, or a completely new material.

Proposals must include the following activities:

  • Developing benchtop demonstrations of significant (greater than 1 mW/cm2) electric power generation. Ideally the demos will have surface areas far less than one m2.
  • Demonstrating methods of benign manufacture or decomposition for extant high efficiency energy harvesting transducers. Typically existing energy harvesters use materials (II-VI, III-V, Si, etc) that may require toxic processes or byproducts to produce or recycle -- how can we mitigate or eliminate these negative environmental impacts at the point of device manufacture or decomposition?
  • Demonstrating manufacturing methods of energy generator transducers from biodegradable or bio-derived/decomposable materials.
  • Development of an ethical framework that could be used to assess the environmental impact of the chosen material.

Requirements

Proposals should include:

  • A summary of the project (1-2 pages) explaining the area of focus, a description of techniques, ethical frameworks, any relevant prior work, and a timeline with milestones and expected outcomes.
  • A draft budget description (1 page) including an approximate cost of the award and explanation of how funds would be spent
  • Curriculum Vitae for all project participants.
  • Organization details; this will include tax information and administrative contact details

Eligibility

  • Awards must comply with applicable US and international laws, regulations and policies.*
  • Applicants must be current full-time faculty at an accredited academic institution that awards research degrees to PhD students.
  • Applicants must be the Principal Investigator on any resulting award.
  • Applicants may submit one proposal per solicitation.
  • Organizations must be a nonprofit or non-governmental organization with recognized legal status in their respective country (equal to 501(c)(3) status under the United States Internal Revenue Code).

Frequently Asked Questions

Most of the RFP awards are an unrestricted gift. Because of its nature, salary/headcount could be included as part of the budget presented for the RFP. Since the award/gift is paid to the university, they will be able to allocate the funds to that winning project and have the freedom to use as they need. All Facebook teams are different and have different expectations concerning deliverables, timing, etc. Long story short – yes, money for salary/headcount can be included. It’s up to the reviewing team to determine if the percentage spend is reasonable and how that relates to the decision if the project is a winner or not.

We are flexible, but ideally proposals submitted are single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt font.

Research awards are given year-round and funding years/duration can vary by proposal.

Yes, award funds can be used to cover a researcher’s salary.

One person will need to be the primary PI (i.e., the submitter that will receive all email notifications); however, you’ll be given the opportunity to list collaborators/co-PIs in the submission form. Please note in your budget breakdown how the funds should be dispersed amongst PIs.

Terms & Conditions

Please read these terms carefully before proceeding.

Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Facebook RFP solicitations, including whether or not to grant an award and the interpretation of Facebook RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these terms and conditions.

  • Facebook has partnered with Charities Aid Foundation America (“CAF America”) to administer awards under this RFP through a Donor Advised Fund. Under this arrangement, awards recommended by Facebook will be subject to review and approval by CAF America’s Board of Directors. Facebook’s recommendations are based on criteria determined by Facebook. Awards approved by CAF America will be subject to the terms and conditions contained in CAF America’s grant agreement. Applicants understand and acknowledge that they will need to agree to such additional terms and conditions to receive an award.
  • Facebook’s decisions will be final in all matters relating to Facebook RFP solicitations, including whether or not to recommend an award, and the interpretation of Facebook RFP Terms and Conditions. By submitting a proposal, applicants affirm that they have read and agree to these Terms and Conditions.
  • Facebook is authorized to evaluate proposals submitted under this RFP, to consult with outside experts, as needed, in evaluating proposals, and to recommend awards be made by CAF America using criteria determined by Facebook to be appropriate and at Facebook’s sole discretion. Facebook’s recommendations will be final in all matters relating to its RFPs, and applicants agree not to challenge any such decisions. All grants awarded by CAF America are made in CAF America’s sole and independent discretion and governed by CAF America’s grant agreement.
  • Facebook will not be required to treat any part of a proposal as confidential or protected by copyright, and may use, edit, modify, copy, reproduce and distribute all or a portion of the proposal in any manner for the sole purposes of administering the Facebook RFP website and evaluating the contents of the proposal. Facebook may also provide proposals submitted under this RFP to CAF America for review and evaluation.
  • Personal data submitted with a proposal, including name, mailing address, phone number, and email address of the applicant and other named researchers in the proposal may be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by Facebook for the purposes of administering Facebook’s RFP website, evaluating the contents of the proposal, and as otherwise provided under Facebook’s Privacy Policy. Such personal data may also be collected, processed, stored and otherwise used by CAF America for the purposes of evaluating the contents of the proposal and determining whether or not to approve an award recommended by Facebook.
  • Neither Facebook nor the applicant is obligated to enter into a business transaction as a result of the proposal submission. Facebook is under no obligation to review or consider the proposal.
  • Feedback provided in a proposal regarding Facebook products or services will not be treated as confidential or protected by copyright, and Facebook is free to use such feedback on an unrestricted basis with no compensation to the applicant. The submission of a proposal will not result in the transfer of ownership of any IP rights.
  • Applicants represent and warrant that they have authority to submit a proposal in connection with a Facebook RFP and to grant the rights set forth herein on behalf of their organization. All awards provided by CAF America in connection with this RFP shall be used only in accordance with applicable laws and shall not be used in any way, directly or indirectly, to facilitate any act that would constitute bribery or an illegal kickback, an illegal campaign contribution, or would otherwise violate any applicable anti-corruption or political activities law.
  • Any disputes arising from CAF America’s grant of an award are also subject to the grant agreement signed by the applicant with CAF America. In the event that any condition of the grant agreement conflicts with these terms and conditions, the conditions of the grant agreement will supersede these terms and conditions.