US awards $106 million for energy research; MA gets over 20% of it

Hurray for local innovators!  Press release (no link):

Seven Massachusetts based projects have been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy to receive $22.1 million for research projects that could fundamentally change the way the country uses and produces energy.  In an announcement made today by Vice President Biden, the DOE is awarding a total of $106 million, through the Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), for 37 projects that 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….

The Massachusetts based projects selected for award today include:



Ginkgo BioWorks (Boston, MA) Electron Source – Electric Current (via Formate):  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. DOE award: $6,000,000

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) 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.  DOE award: $4,973,724

Harvard Medical School-Wyss Institute (Boston, MA) 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.  DOE award: $4,194,125

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) 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. DOE award: $3,195,563

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) 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. DOE award: $1,771,404

University of Massachusetts Amherst (Amherst, MA) 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. DOE award: $1,000,000

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) Sorbents:  A new method known as electrochemically mediated separation (ECMS) will be developed that will lower the energy required to capture CO2 and allow for simpler retrofitting to existing coal-fired power plants. DOE award: $1,000,000

Very cool stuff.  Congrats to the winners!

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2 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Excellent, so we won't have to change our consumption after all!

    It's a win-win: free jobs and lots of money for us techno-geeks to buy stuff with right now, and free renewable clean energy so we can continue to drive cars and power our technological infrastructure and maintain nature-defying social lives and maintain our intellectual lawyerly mastery over the planet and 95% of the people!  Yay progressivism!

  2. So awesome

    I had to post a link. Congrats MA firms and Universities.

    I am amazed at how quickly we are seeing innovation in one of the thorniest problems for green tech: how to get better, cheaper, smaller batteries to store energy for use later (whether it's because of the cyclical nature of the renewable production, or for use in mobile vehicles and the like).

    Ten years ago, battery development had been practically stalled for decades. Everyone thought a breakthrough was going to be extremely difficult. The stalled development of better batteries then in turn stalled the innovation in solar and other renewables.

    Yet, look how quickly some pretty amazing ideas have come forward. Some are even getting ready for production at this point. Whether the solid state storage batteries, or using power to generate liquid fuel (which is, in essence, another form of battery - ie stored energy), there's like dozens of amazing technologies all vying to be the next big thing. We are bound to solve this problem, and soon. And all because government (the state, and now the feds) have put an emphasis on getting it done.

    When we set our minds to it, we can go to the moon. I think we as a people forgot that for a while.

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