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U.S. Department of Energy Announces funding for Blockchain-based Research Projects

In a press release on Monday, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it will award $4.8 million in federal funding for universities working on research and development projects. The funding, which comes through the Office of Fossil Energy, is part of the department’s University Training and Research initiative, whose aim is to cultivate young science and engineering professionals in the fossil energy sector.

The projects encompassed in the initiative include advancing innovation and research in fossil energy resources — more commonly known as “fossil fuels” — developing early-stage technologies that make domestic energy more affordable, and improving the reliability of electric grids.

Within these areas of focus, the announcement highlights four particular areas of interest — determining arsenic concentrations in fly ash, using high-performance computing to improve coal plants, minimizing waste created by coal plants, and increasing cybersecurity in fossil power generation.

This last area of focus specifically mentions the development of blockchain technology:

“Projects selected under this AOI will explore emerging technologies (such as blockchain and decentralized, peer-to-peer internet protocols) that secure process signal data and other information flows within distributed sensor networks for fossil-based power generation systems.”

While projects employing blockchain is not the sole focus of the funding initiative, its mention demonstrates that the Department of Energy views it as a valuable technology worth exploring. Indeed, in January of last year, blockchain startup BlockCypher, which provides blockchain infrastructure, partnered with the Department of Energy lab to develop technology that would allow energy transactions to be settled across multiple blockchains.

The Department of Energy anticipates it will award the $4.8 million in funding to twelve projects, which will “reduce the risk and cost of advanced fossil fuel energy technologies and further the sustainable use of the nation’s fossil resources.” Notably, the initiative encompasses Historically Black Colleges and Other Minority Institutions (HBCU/OMI) that will seek to increase participation in these projects among under-represented demographics.