DOE awards $98 million in ARPA-E funding

By Erin Voegele | November 21, 2018

On Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Energy announced it is awarding $98 million to support 40 transformative energy technology projects under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s latest open funding opportunity. Biofuel-related projects are among those to receive funding.

“ARPA-E’s open solicitations serve a valuable purpose. They give America’s energy innovators the opportunity to tell us about the next big thing,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. “Many of the greatest advances in human history started from the bottom up with a single person or idea, and OPEN 2018 provides a chance to open our doors to potentially the next great advancement in energy.”

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboraotory was awarded $3.17 million for a project titled “Metal-supported SOFCS for ethanol-fueled vehicles.” LBNL is developing a metal-supported solid oxide fuel cell (MS-SOFC) stack that produces electricity from an ethanol-water blend at high efficiency to enable light-duty hybrid passenger vehicles. According to the DOE, current LBNL MS-SOFCs can heat up from room temperature to the approximately 700 degree Celsius operating temperature in seconds without thermal expansion cracking and tolerate rapid temperature changes during operation, and are mechanically rugged. However, they currently operate using ethanol fuel, converted into hydrogen and carbon monoxide prior to entering the fuel cell in a process called reforming. The team will use the funding to adapt these MS-SOFCs to handle liquid ethanol-water fuel directly while maintaining their high performance and durability, and will tackle challenges around assembly of cells into stacks to increase power output.

Kona-Hawaii-based Kampachi Farms LLC was awarded $3.4 million for a project titled “KRUMBS—Kyphosid ruminant microbial bioconversion of seaweeds.” The company will develop a new, highly efficient process for the conversion of marine macoalgae seaweeds into a variety of bioproducts, including biofuels. DOE said the team will work with partners to isolate, optimize and deploy microbial consortia and individual microorganisms cap able of rapidly digesting macroalgal biomass in a highly scalable way. The technology is intended to leverage domestic marine biomass resources to reduce the need for imported energy and significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions relative to traditional petroleum-derived fuels and products.

A full list of all 40 awardees is available on the ARPA-E website