Thursday, July 28, 2011

Joule Unlimited Aims for 25,000 gal/acre Ethanol, 15,000 gal/acre Diesel

Bioengineering startup Joule Unlimited Technologies, utilises highly engineered photosynthetic micro-organisms to produce fuels and high value chemicals from CO2 and sunlight. Joule intends to eventually produce its fuels and chemicals without the need for biomass or biomass sugars for feedstock.
Joule Unlimited Technologies, a bioengineering startup leveraging highly engineered photosynthetic organisms to catalyze the conversion of sunlight and CO2 to fuels and chemicals, has been awarded its first two US patents covering its fundamental method for producing ethanol at volumes and efficiencies surpassing biomass-dependent processes.

...These two latest patents relate to methods for increasing the ethanol production capability of a photosynthetic microorganism. Joule’s platform microorganism is engineered to produce and secrete ethanol in a continuous process, converting more than 90% of the CO2 it consumes directly to end product, with no reliance on biomass feedstocks....

...Joule claims that these innovations, together with its advances in bioprocessing and solar capture and conversion, will help it achieve an ultimate target of 25,000 gallons per acre annually—a rate that is 10X greater than that of cellulosic ethanol and 100X greater than corn ethanol—while requiring no depletion of food crops, agricultural land or fresh water. Joule is now producing ethanol at pilot scale, and has achieved nearly 50% of its ultimate productivity target in the lab, it says.

In addition, by eliminating the need for biomass, Joule avoids the burden of fluctuating feedstock cost and supply, as well as the energy-intensive, multi-step conversion of biomass to product. At full-scale commercial production Joule expects to produce ethanol for as little as $0.60/gallon.

In an open access paper published earlier this year in the journal Photosynthesis Research, a Joule team concluded that its direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of solar hydrocarbon fuels could produce the areal equivalent of up to 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually. _GCC

As Al Fin industrial engineers have pointed out previously, it is easy to get high yields per "acre" if one builds photobioreactors vertically, essentially multiplying growing area while maintaining the same building footprint area. Joule has a lot of work to do if it is to achieve its production targets without utilising such tricks.



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