DOE's ARPA-E funds 60 projects, includes biofuels, bioenergy

By Anna Simet | November 29, 2012

The U.S. DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program has granted a total of $130 million to 66 projects focused on breakthrough energy technologies demonstrating fundamental technical promise, but are too early for private-sector investment. The selected projects encompass 11 technology areas in 24 states and focus on a wide range of technologies, including advanced vehicle and design and materials, building efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization, renewable power and advanced fuels.

ARPA-E’s first funding opportunity, “OPEN 2009,” was issued three years ago and was similarly an open call to America’s top scientists and engineers for transformational energy technology solutions. Previously selected projects have already made major progress, by demonstrating the world’s first 400 Wh/kg lithium-ion battery poised to revolutionize the electric vehicle industry; building a wind turbine, inspired by the design of jet engines, that could deliver 300 percent more power than existing turbines of the same size and cost; and engineering a high power laser drilling system that can penetrate hard rock formations over long distances and is ten times more economical than conventional drilling technologies.

Some examples of advanced fuels-based projects that were granted funding in the most recent round of ARPA-E awards include:

Lexington, Ky.-based Allylix Inc., which received $4.5 million to develop energy-dense terpenes as high-performance, liquid aviation fuels.

Princeton, N.J.-based Bio2Electric LLC, which will use $600,000 to develop a small-scale reactor that converts methane into a liquid transportation fuel by combining fuel cell technology with advanced catalysts.

Researchers from Colorado State University received $2 million to develop a system to rapidly Introduce new genetic traits into crops that currently cannot be engineered, for improved biofuel production.

Cornell University was granted $900,000 for the development of  a compact reactor that distributes sunlight more efficiently for use in algae-fuel production.

Ceramatec Inc. in Salt Lake City will use $1.7 million to develop a small-scale membrane reactor to convert methane gas into transportable liquids in one step.

The Gas Technology Institute will use $770,000 to develop a new process to convert  methane into methanol and hydrogen.

Researchers at Plant Sensory Systems in Baltimore, Md., were granted $1.8 million to produce an enhanced energy beet, optimized for biofuel production.

The University of Minnesota will use $1.8 million to develop an ultra-thin separation membrane to improve the production of biofuels, plastics and other industrial materials.

For the full list of award recipients, click here.