Get Out Your Thinking Caps, the DOE's Looking for Inventors

The Department of Energy calls it "funding opportunity DE-FOA-0000065." But I'd like to call it something more rousing -- a potentially enormous monetary prize!

If you've been sitting on a great idea that could revolutionize the future of energy in the United States, today's the day to make something of it. The DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency -- Energy (ARPA-E) is offering up to $20 million in financing for energy-related technological concepts, according to the Wall Street Journal's Environmental Capital blog. May 12 marks the starting date for the three-week window of submissions.

So what kinds of projects is ARPA-E looking for? Pretty much anything, so long as it's a "high-risk, high-payoff" "transformational energy-related technology" that helps overcome the nation's reliance on fossil fuels. Basically, something that's promising, needs help and isn't just an improvement on an existing technology. There are only four criteria:

1. The technology will reduce imports of energy from foreign sources. 2. It will reduce energy-related emissions, including greenhouse gases. 3. It will improve the energy efficiency of all economic sectors. 4. It will ensure the United States maintains a lead in energy technology development and deployment.

ARPA-E is accepting technical ideas in concept papers (they'll let you know if they're interested in more info later). After selecting promising ideas, the agency will help out with initial funding, as well as support the product's research, development and launch. It's the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act at work.

More ideas: 5 Unclaimed Environmental Prizes 5 Alternative Fuel Ideas That Never Made It Out of the Lab 5 Wacky Forms of Alternative Energy