UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab announce Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute

The Kavli Foundation has endowed a new institute at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to explore the basic science of how to capture and channel energy on the molecular or nanoscale, with the potential for discovering new ways of generating energy for human use. The new Kavli institute will be lead by Paul Alivisatos, who has also been a member of the Kavli Prize committee in nanoscience.

Paul Alivisatos (left) will be the director for The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute Institute (Kavli ENSI). Paul Alivisatos (left) will be the director for The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute Institute (Kavli ENSI). Photo: Roy Kaltschmidt, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 

The Kavli Energy NanoSciences Institute (Kavli ENSI), announced today (Thursday, Oct. 3), will be supported by a $20 million endowment, with The Kavli Foundation providing $10 million and UC Berkeley raising equivalent matching funds. The Kavli Foundation will also provide additional start-up funds for the institute. The Kavli ENSI will explore fundamental issues in energy science, using cutting-edge tools and techniques developed to study and manipulate nanomaterials - stuff with dimensions a thousand times smaller than the width of a human hair - to understand how solar, heat and vibrational energy are captured and converted into useful work by plants and animals or novel materials.

This new Kavli Institute has already received matching fund gifts from the Heising-Simons Foundation, establishing a Heising-Simons Energy Nanoscience Fellows program, and a donation from the Philomathia Foundation, establishing the Philomathia Discovery Fund.

"The field of nanoscience is poised to change the very foundations of how we should think about future energy conversion systems," said Kavli ENSI Director Paul Alivisatos, who is also director of Berkeley Lab and the Samsung Distinguished Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in UC Berkeley's College of Chemistry. "UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab stand out worldwide for their strong efforts in nanoscience and their research activities related to energy, so energy nanoscience is a particular strength for us."

"I am delighted to welcome the Kavli ENSI into the community of Kavli institutes," said Fred Kavli, Founder and Chairman of The Kavli Foundation. "By exploring the basic science of energy conversion in biological systems, as well as building entirely new hybrid and perhaps even completely artificial systems, the Kavli ENSI is positioned to revolutionize our thinking about the science of energy, and is positioned to do the kind of basic research that will ultimately make this a better world for all of us."

"This new partnership with the Kavli Foundation and the Berkeley Lab is significant and exciting," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks. "The Kavli Institute will expand our portfolio of research endeavors focused on alternative sources of energy, one of the planet's most pressing and complicated challenges. Progress in the realm of energy nanosciences will be contingent on successful collaboration across conventional scientific boundaries - the very approach that has made Berkeley a global leader in alternative energy research."

"There is simply no better time, given the issues surrounding energy worldwide, to announce an institute dedicated to the basic science of energy. This new Kavli Institute will have superb leadership and a large number of extraordinary faculty affiliated with it," said Robert W. Conn, President of The Kavli Foundation. "I'd like as well to thank both the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Philomathia Foundation for their confidence in Berkeley and in this new Kavli Institute. Their matching gifts will help the Kavli ENSI at Berkeley get off to a very strong start." He added, "There is also no more important time than now to invest in basic scientific research. History has shown that discoveries in basic science have a profound impact on the economy of nations, on the health of people, and on the well-being of societies."

The Kavli ENSI will be the fifth nanoscience institute established by The Kavli Foundation, joining Kavli Institutes at the California Institute of Technology, Cornell University, Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands and Harvard University. The Foundation funds an international program that includes research institutes, professorships, symposia and other initiatives in the four fields of astrophysics, nanoscience, neuroscience and theoretical physics.

The foundation is also a founder of the Kavli Prizes, which recognize scientists for their seminal advances in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience. With the announcement of the Kavli ENSI, The Kavli Foundation has established seventeen institutes worldwide - 11 in the United States, three in Europe and three in Asia.

Media contacts - Kavli ENSI

Robert Sanders, UC Berkeley: rlsanders@berkeley.edu, (510) 643-6998
Lynn Yarris, Berkeley Lab: lcyarris@lbl.gov, (510) 486-5375
James Cohen, The Kavli Foundation:
cohen@kavlifoundation.org, (805) 278-7495

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