Feds Drop $106 Million Into Futuristic Energy Projects

By Andrew Moseman | May 3, 2010 4:52 pm

GreenenergyLately we’ve been covering the doings of DARPA, the Defense Department’s mad scientist wing that conducts kooky scavenger hunts and loses hypersonic gliders. But today the focus is on the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)—an agency President Obama created last year to foster research on creative alternative energy projects rather than futuristic weaponry. ARPA-E, which is part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, announced this week grants totaling $106 million.

The first of the three groups of projects funded by the ARPA-E uses microorganisms to create liquid fuels.

Most of the leading fourth-generation biofuel companies that utilize bio-chemical approaches are modifying the genetic structure of the organism to transform a sugar substrate and secrete either pure “drop in” fuels like diesel, gasoline, or jet fuel, or gasoline substitutes like ethanol or biobutanol [Greentech Media].

The microorganisms in the liquid-fuel experiments need electricity to produce fuel, but many of the researchers are devising ways to use solar energy as the power source so the projects can use renewable fuels to create renewable fuels.

Group number two is made of the small firms creating better batteries for electric vehicles; low energy density in batteries is one of the main problems hindering electric cars. ARPA-E funded 10 different battery projects.

For example, start-up Planar Energy Devices received over $4 million to pursue its solid-state battery, which can be manufactured with a roll-to-roll production process. Among the others are ReVolt Technologies which received over $5 million to continue development of a zinc-based flow battery, and PolyPlus Battery, which is working with Dow Corning to design lithium air batteries for vehicles [CNET].

Lastly, there are the carbon-capture projects designed to reduce emissions at coal plants. You can check out the entire list of 37 funded projects (pdf), as well as the Department of Energy’s technical descriptions (pdf).

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Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, Technology
  • m

    Super Novaes provide lots of energy.

    Which is ironic since because Super Novaes make Black Holes and a giant black hole is where all these tax dollars are about to fall into.

  • Mike

    Wow. Clever. So you’d rather them spend it on weapons research? And $106 million is still chump change. I wonder how much the gulf oil spill will cost to clean up, or at least make a decent show of cleaning up.

  • http:/teleprestexan.blogspot.com/ Stephen Daugherty

    Whew. I was worried there.

    I thought your headline meant that they were dropping those programs. You might need to revise it for clarity.

  • amphiox

    Not to mention that black holes actually have an energy production efficiency greater than fusion, and superior in fact to everything short of antimatter/matter.

  • m

    if i thought for one moment this money would go to actual research instead of huge salaries and benefits for the beaurocracy that runs it, i might be more supportive.

    diverting the funds to the oil spill – now there’s an idea.

  • Ross

    I had a professor who had worked in the oil spill cleaning and repairing business, who claimed oil spills are common to almost a daily amount. The oil spill in the Gulf is just one! whether or not one could relate a spill to an increase or decrease in consumption or price does not seem to be substantial. The fact that America is fighting a war where tax dollars pay for our troops, then purchasing oil supplies the funds for the “enemy” should be enough of a reason to drive our country in a new direction… Finding alternative energy should be THE goal of the United States, not a small developing project where the government throws their chump change at like a homeless person on the streets of New York City. With all of our technological advancements how much more efficient have we really become? The government along with the people need to strive for a better change, not just show pity for our deteriorating world.


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