In an effort to accelerate next generation biofuels and drive down the cost of producing gasoline, diesel and jet fuels from biomass, the US Energy Department has announced four new research and development projects. The partnerships with private industry, universities and national labs can increase America's energy security, bolster rural economic development, and cut harmful carbon polluti on from cars, trucks, and planes according to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. The four projects will represent a $13 million Energy Department investment. One of the projects will be led by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee who will be partnering with FuelCellsEtc, a company that specializes in manufacturing high performance custom fuel cell and electrolyzer components.
These research projects build on a broader plan by the Obama Administration to advance the next generation of biofuels improving performance and identifying effective, non-food feedstocks and conversion technologies. The projects will further lower the production costs of fuel by maximizing the amount of renewable carbon and hydrogen that can be converted to fuels from biomass and improve the separation processes in bio-oil production to remove non-fuel components.
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory headed project will receive up to $2.1 million in funding from the Energy Department to use a microbial electrolysis process to efficiently remove the hydrogen from the water found in bio-oil. This technology will help reduce the corrosivity of bio-oil and improve the efficiency of converting hydrogen and biomass to biofuels. FuelCellsEtc will be working closely with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to design and manufacture custom Gas Diffusion Electrodes (GDE) for the project. Playing an integral role in the project, the function of the GDE is to provide an electrochemical reaction between the liquid and gaseous phases, converting the chemical bond energy into electrical energy inside of the fuel cell. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, Georgia Institute of Technology, Pall Corporation, and OmniTech International will also be participating in the project.
As part of a plan to produce cost-competitive drop-in biofuels at $3 per gallon by 2017, the Energy Department continues to take steps to speed the development of clean, renewable biofuels.