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May 4th, 2010

ARPA-E announces $106M in new awards for electrofuels, batteries and clean-coal projects

Published on May 4th, 2010 | By: pwray@ceramics.org

Energy-related materials R&D is going to be getting a nice boost in the near future according to ARPA-E’s latest announcement of funding projects. Thirty-seven projects in the areas of electrofuels (electric production of biofuels), innovative battery designs and zero-emission coal have been blessed to the tune of $106 million.

ARPA-E invests in high-risk, high-reward technologies that at least somewhat close to the prototype stage and conceivably not too far from market. In other words, it wants energy game-changers that can deliver results in years, not decades. For this round of funding, the second, DOE/ARPA-E says the selected projects “could 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.”

Among the big “winners are the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (that scored over $22 million in direct or indirect funding, MIT (over $14 million) and A123 Systems ($10 million).

Here is a full list of the newest awardees:

Lead (& partner orgs.) Award Purpose
ELECTROFUELS CATEGORY
Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst
(Univ. of California, San Diego, Genomatica)
$1.00M 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.
Penn State University
(Univ. of Kentucky)
$1.50M 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.  

Ohio State Univ.
(Battelle Memorial
Institute)

$3.98M 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 Univ.)
$1.77M 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.
Ginkgo BioWorks
(Univ. of California,
Berkeley; Univ. of Washington)
$6.00M 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
$4.19M 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 Univ., Univ.
of Delaware)
$3.20M 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 Univ.
(University of Georgia)
$2.73M 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 Lab, Johnson
Matthey Catalysts Inc.)
$6.00M 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.

Univ. of California, Los
Angeles
(Easel Biotechnologies
LLC, Univ. of California, Davis)

$4.00M 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 Univ. of South
Carolina
(Clemson Univ., Univ. of
South Carolina)
$2.34M 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. 
Columbia University $0.54M Electron Source – Ammonia: The project will genetically engineer
ammonia-consuming bacteria to produce isobutanol from carbon
dioxide and electricity.
Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab
(Univ. of California,
Berkeley, Logos
Technologies Inc.)
$3.95M 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.
BATTERIES IN TRANSPORTATION
Sion Power Corp.
(BASF, Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab, Pacific
Northwest National Lab)
$5.00M Lithium-Sulfur (Li-S) Battery: The project seeks to develop an ultra-
high energy Li-S battery that can power electric vehicles for more than
300 miles between charges. The approach uses new manufacturing
processes and six physical barrier layers to address cycle life and
safety.
ReVolt Technology LLC $5.00M

Zinc Flow Air Battery: A large, high-energy zinc-air flow battery
will be developed to enable long range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. Zinc, suspended as a slurry, is stored in a tank and transported
through tubes to charge and discharge the battery.

PolyPlus Battery Co.  
(Corning Inc.)
$5.00M Lithium-Air Battery: Rechargeable Li-Air batteries for electric vehicle
applications will be developed using protected Lithium metal cathodes.
This approach has a clear path to scaling commercially, and the
batteries may rival the energy density of gasoline.
Pellion Technologies Inc.
(Massachusetts Institute
of Technology,
Bar-Ilan Univ.)
$3.20M Magnesium-Ion Battery: The project will develop an inexpensive,
rechargeable magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric
vehicle applications. Computational methods and accelerated
chemical synthesis will be used to develop new materials and
chemistries. If successful, this project will develop the first commercial
magnesium-ion battery and establish U.S. technology leadership in a
new field.
Applied Material, Inc.
(A123 Systems, Inc.,
Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab)
$4.37M Advanced Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing: Low-cost, ultra-high
energy lithium-ion batteries will be developed using an innovative
manufacturing process. High energy cathodes will be integrated with
new anodes and prototype manufacturing will be demonstrated that
could achieve an extremely low cost. If successful, this project will
establish U.S. leadership in the manufacturing of high energy, low cost
advanced lithium-ion batteries.
Massachusetts Institute
of Technology
(A123 Systems, Inc.,
Rutgers Univ.)
$4.97M Novel Semi-Solid Rechargeable Flow Battery: This is a new battery
concept that combines the best aspects of rechargeable batteries and
fuel cells. It could enable batteries for electric vehicles that are much
lighter and smaller – and cheaper – than today’s batteries.  This flow
battery potentially could cost less than one-eighth of today’s batteries,
which could lead to widespread adoption of affordable electric
vehicles.

Planar Energy
Devices Inc.
(National Renewable
Energy Lab, Univ.
California, San
Diego, Univ. of Central Florida, Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, Univ.
of Florida, Univ. of South Florida)

$4.03M Solid State Lithium Battery: This project seeks to develop an ultra high energy, long cycle life all solid-state lithium battery that can manufactured using low cost techniques. Pilot-scale manufacturing of the batteries will be demonstrated using all inorganic materials and solid state electrolytes whose properties are similar to existing liquid
electrolytes.
Stanford Univ.
(Honda, Applied Materials Inc.)
$1.00M Novel All-Electron Battery: Researchers will seek to develop an “All-
Electron Battery”, a completely new class of electrical energy storage
devices for electric vehicles. The new battery stores energy by moving
electrons rather than ions and uses a novel architecture that has
potential for very high energy density.
Recapping Inc.
(Penn State University)
$1.00M Capacitive Storage: The project will develop a novel energy storage
device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D
nanocomposite structure. The approach combines the benefits of high
cycling ability, high power density, and low cost.

Missouri University
of Science & Technology
(Brookhaven National
Lab, MaxPower Inc.,
NanoLab Inc.)

$1.00M Lithium-Air Battery:  A new high energy air cathode will be created to
enable the successful development of ultra-high energy Lithium-Air
batteries. The project will seek to dramatically improve cathode
performance through the development of a new electrode structure
and improved catalysts.
CARBON CAPTURE TECHNOLOGIES
Codexis Inc.  
(Nexant Inc.)
$4.66M Solvents/Catalysts: Applying biology to the problem of carbon
capture, this project will use low-cost carbonic anhydrase enzymes
and a novel directed evolution process to increase reactivity to capture
CO2 and ability to resist degradation in the harsh flue gases of coal-
fired power plants.   
Texas A&M $1.02M Sorbents: Metal organic frameworks, new compounds that
show great promise for CO2 capture, will have their mesh size finely
controlled to improve the selectivity of adsorbing CO2 and to reduce
the energy required.
Massachusetts Institute
of Technology
(Siemens)
$1.00M Sorbents: A new method known as electrochemically mediated
separation will be developed that will lower the energy
required to capture CO2 and allow for simpler retrofitting to existing
coal-fired power plants.
University of Kentucky – Center for Applied Energy Research $1.96M Membranes / Solvents: A hybrid process for CO2 capture will be
developed that combines nanoscale separation with catalysis to
reduce the amount of energy diverted from the power plant to remove
CO2 from flue gas.
GE Global Research Center
(GE Energy, Univ. of Pittsburgh)
$3.02M Phase Change: A novel phase change process will be developed in
which a liquid absorbent changes to a solid when it adsorbs CO2. 
Because the CO2 is captured in solid form, it will be much easier to
separate the CO2 from other flue gases and will decrease the energy
required for CO2 compression and transport.
Lawrence Livermore
National Lab
(University of Illinois,
Urbana-Champaign,
Babcock & Wilcox)
$3.67M Solvents/Catalysts: Synthetic small-molecule catalysts will be
developed that greatly speed up the absorption of CO2, enabling
advanced solvents that bind CO2 less tightly and reduce the energy
required to release the CO2 from the solvent afterwards.
Lawrence Berkeley
National Lab
(Wildcat Technologies,
Electric Power Research Institute)
$3.67M Sorbents: Robotic instrumentation tools and computational algorithms
will be used to accelerate the development of metal organic framework  materials that demonstrate improved selectivity of capturing
CO2 and stability in withstanding the harsh flue gas environment at
coal-fired power plants.
Georgia Institute of Technology $1.00M Membranes: Metal organic frameworks will be integrated into
hollow fiber membranes to improve the throughput and selectivity of
the membranes for CO2 capture.
Notre Dame Univ.
(Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research & Innovation Center)
$2.56M Phase Change: Solid compounds will turn into an ionic liquid when
they react with CO2 and turn back into a solid when the CO2 is
released. These materials require less energy than today’s
approaches to capturing CO2.
ATK
(ACENT Laboratories)
$1.00M Phase Change: A novel technology based on rocket designs will be
used to capture CO2 by passing it through a nozzle at supersonic
speeds, which will cause the CO2 to precipitate out from the flue gas
as a solid (dry ice). This approach could allow much lower capital
costs and simpler integration with existing coal-fired power plants.
Columbia Univ.
(Sandia National Lab, REI)
$1.01M Solvents/Catalysts: Weathering is a slow, naturally occurring carbon
capture process that stores CO2 in mineral form. This project would
use catalysts and enzymes to greatly accelerate the capture of CO2
and conversion into mineral form.  This could be an alternative to
storing CO2 in underground geologic structures.
Univ. of Colorado, Boulder
(Los Alamos National Lab, Electric Power
Research Institute)
$3.14M Membranes: Very thin ionic liquid membranes will be created that
allow CO2 to pass at high rates, reducing the size and cost of
membranes needed for CO2 capture.
Oak Ridge National Lab
(Georgia Institute of Technology)
$0.99M Sorbents: Ionic liquids will be integrated into novel hollow fiber
membranes to form an ionic liquid “sponge” that can absorb CO2.
Research Triangle Institute
(BASF)
$2.00M Solvents: The project will use solvents that exploit a new type of
reversible chemical reaction with CO2. This approach could require
40% less energy compared to current processes.

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