The U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) today announced up to $25 million in funding for a new program focused on creating innovative components to increase the energy efficiency of datacenters. ARPA-E’s ENergy-efficient Light-wave Integrated Technology Enabling Networks that Enhance Datacenters (ENLITENED) program seeks to double datacenter energy efficiency by using innovative data-communications network designs and methods.

The explosive growth of the internet has led to an increase in energy consumption by the Information Communications Technology (ICT) sector. A recent estimate reports that datacenters consumed an amount of electricity sufficient to power every household in New York City twice over. This amount is projected to double in about eight years. There are many approaches to improve energy efficiency in data centers, but ultimately the metal interconnects currently used to transmit information between the devices within a datacenter will limit efficiency gains. ENLITENED seeks to overcome the limitations of these interconnects and to prioritize overall datacenter energy efficiency. To achieve this, high density, energy-efficient photonic interconnects and related switching or connecting technologies, will be used to develop transformational efficiency improvements.

The ENLITENED program will focus on four main areas: overcoming the challenges associated with integration and packaging of photonic interconnects, high radix photonic switches (computer network devices that connect and route data to other devices), creating new datacenter network architectures using these innovative components, and modeling and simulation of new datacenters to demonstrate a pathway to commercialization. If the technical targets of ENLITENED are achieved, ARPA-E estimates the deployment of these technologies will double datacenter energy efficiency in addition to what is already possible using existing methods.

ARPA-E is encouraging outstanding scientists and engineers from different organizations, scientific disciplines, and technology sectors to form new project teams for the ENLITENED program. The agency believes that interdisciplinary and cross-organizational collaborations can facilitate scientific and technological discoveries that a single group alone would not be able to achieve.

The deadline to submit a Concept Paper for ENLITENED is 5 p.m. ET on July 25, 2016.  More information on the ENLITENED Teaming Partner Arrangements can be found HERE, and the full ENLITENED Funding Opportunity Announcement can be found HERE.