U.S. DOE Funds ‘Sunlight-to-Fuel’ Project

The U.S. Department of Energy Announced earlier this month that it would set aside more than $100 million to create an “Energy Innovation Hub” to encourage innovation around producing fuels directly from sunlight.

The DOE hopes to build new photosynthetic biofuels technologies and then partner with the private sector to commercialize them. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman announced an award of $122 million last week to a team of researchers in California.

The Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP), to be led by the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), will bring together leading researchers in an ambitious effort aimed at simulating nature’s photosynthetic apparatus for practical energy production.

The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub is one of three Hubs that will receive funding in FY10. The Hubs are large, multidisciplinary, highly-collaborative teams of scientists and engineers working over a longer time frame to achieve a specific high-priority goal. They will be managed by top teams of scientists and engineers with enough resources and authority to move quickly in response to new developments.

JCAP research will be directed at the discovery of the functional components necessary to assemble a complete artificial photosynthetic system: light absorbers, catalysts, molecular linkers, and separation membranes. The Hub will then integrate those components into an operational solar fuel system and develop scale-up strategies to move from the laboratory toward commercial viability. The ultimate objective is to drive the field of solar fuels from fundamental research, where it has resided for decades, into applied research and technology development, thereby setting the stage for the creation of a direct solar fuels industry.

The Hub will be funded at up to $22 million this fiscal year. The Hub will then be funded at an estimated $25 million per year for the next four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

 

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