30 April 2010
In Washington, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that it will award $106 million in ARPA-E funding for 37 research projects that produce advanced biofuels more efficiently from renewable electricity instead of sunlight; design completely new types of batteries to make electric vehicles more affordable; and remove the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants in a more cost-effective way.
13 of the grants are for "Electrofuels" – Biofuels from Electricity.
According to the DOE, "today's technologies for making biofuels all rely on photosynthesis – either indirectly by converting plants to fuels or directly by harnessing photosynthetic organisms such as algae. This process is less than 1% efficient at converting sunlight to stored chemical energy. Instead, Electrofuels approaches will use organisms able to extract energy from other sources, such as solar-derived electricity or hydrogen or earth-abundant metal ions. Theoretically, such an approach could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches."
University of Massachusetts Amherst
(University of California San Diego, Genomatica)
Electron Source – Electric Current: This project will develop a "microbial electrosynthesis" process in which microorganisms use electric current to convert water and carbon dioxide into butanol at much higher efficiency than traditional photosynthesis and without need for arable land.
Pennsylvania State University
(University of Kentucky)
University Park, PA
Electron Source – Solar Hydrogen: Hydrogen consuming bacteria that usually derives its energy from residual light and organic waste at the bottom of ponds will be "rewired" to use electricity. The organism will be able to convert hydrogen and carbon dioxide into a bio-oil that can be refined into gasoline.
The Ohio State University
(Battelle Memorial Institute)
Electron Source – Hydrogen: An industrially scalable bioreactor approach to incorporate genetically engineered bacteria that metabolize carbon dioxide, oxygen, and hydrogen to produce butanol. The team anticipates at least a twofold productivity improvement over current levels and a cost that can be competitive with gasoline.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Michigan State University)
Electron Source – Hydrogen: A bacterium capable of consuming hydrogen and carbon dioxide will be engineered to produce butanol, which could be used as a motor fuel.
(University of California Berkeley, University of Washington)
Electron Source – Electric Current: The project will engineer a well- studied bacterium, E. coli, to harness electric current to convert carbon dioxide and water into isooctane, an important component of gasoline.
Harvard Medical School- Wyss Institute
Electron Source – Electric Current: This project will engineer a bacterium to be able to use electricity (which could come from renewable sources like solar or wind) to convert carbon dioxide into octanol, an energy-dense liquid fuel.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
(Harvard University, University of Delaware)
Electron Source – Hydrogen and/or Direct Current: This project will engineer two microbes, working together, to convert carbon dioxide and hydrogen into oil, which could be refined into biodiesel.
North Carolina State University
(University of Georgia)
Electron Source – Hydrogen: The project will engineer a novel pathway into a high-temperature organism to use hydrogen gas to convert carbon dioxide into precursor compounds that can be used to produce biofuels such as butanol.
OPX Biotechnologies Inc.
(National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Johnson Matthey Catalysts Inc.)
Electron Source – Hydrogen: Microorganisms will be engineered to use renewable hydrogen and carbon dioxide inputs to produce a biodiesel-equivalent fuel at low cost. Catalysts will be explored to convert the microbial fuel into jet fuel.Lead Research
University of California Los Angeles
(Easel Biotechnologies LLC, University of California Davis)
Los Angeles, CA
Electron Source – Electric Current: The project will use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to allow microorganisms to use electricity instead of sunlight for converting carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels that can be high octane gasoline substitutes.
Medical University of South Carolina
(Clemson University, University of South Carolina)
Electron Source – Electric Current: The project will leverage microbial fuel cell technology to develop a microbial system that uses electricity to convert carbon dioxide into butanol or other alcohol fuels.
New York, NY
Electron Source – Ammonia: The project will genetically engineer ammonia-consuming bacteria to produce isobutanol from carbon dioxide and electricity.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
(University of California Berkeley, Logos Technologies Inc.)
Electron Source – Hydrogen: A common soil bacterium will be engineered to produce butanol and hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen. The organism would be able to produce its own hydrogen by splitting water in the presence of electricity.