Fuel Startup Makes Ethanol From the Sun, CO2

Fuel Startup Makes Ethanol From the Sun, CO2

A New England startup claims it has found a way to make ethanol using solar power and carbon dioxide -- without agricultural land or fresh water.
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Joule Biotechnologies Inc. has found a way to engineer photosynthetic organisms to convert sunlight and CO2 into transportation fuels. The process requires minimal resources and polishing operations, giving the finished product an advantage over biomass-derived biofuels, such as those made from algae, corn or cellulose.

Joule said its scalable system can produce more than 20,000 gallons of “SolarFuel” per acre every year at less than $50 per barrel. It predicts its first product dubbed SolarEthanol will be ready for commercial-scale development next year.

The company’s patent-pending Helioculture technology can also be used to produce chemicals and hydrocarbons; it estimates it will be able to demonstrate hydrocarbon fuel production by 2011.

Joule Biotechnologies: How it works Image courtesy of Joule


“Today’s leading scientists and engineers have been called upon to solve one of the greatest challenges of our time: how to take promising theories and turn them into real, impact-making strides towards energy independence,” Joule Founder and Chairman Noubar Afeya said in a statement. “Joule is doing exactly that -- creating an entirely novel solution that combines the best of solar energy and biofuels, while eliminating their respective weaknesses. The result is a system that can operate at very large scale and provide efficient conversion and storage of solar power without relying on fossil or agricultural products as raw materials.”

The company isn’t the only organization looking for ways to put CO2 -- the most prevalent greenhouse gas -- to use. For example, materials company Novomer makes high-performance, biodegradable plastics, polymers and other chemicals out of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and Calera Corporation makes cement out of CO2.

 

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