This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 05, 2010

DOE Awards $106 Million in Recovery Act Funds to 37 ARPA-E Projects

Vice President Joe Biden announced on April 29 that DOE is awarding $106 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to 37 research projects in 17 states under DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). This second round of ARPA-E grants will go to investigations into three areas: making advanced biofuels from renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of sunlight; designing completely new types of batteries to make electric vehicles more efficient and affordable; and removing carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants in a more cost-effective way. The awardees were selected from 540 concept papers and 180 full applications after a rigorous review. Awards are going to institutions and facilities in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.

One key area of focus is the field of "electrofuels." ARPA-E grants were awarded to 13 projects that will start with microorganisms, such as bacteria or microbes, and then add electricity or hydrogen to produce products such as bio-oil; biodiesel; jet fuel; alcohol fuels, such as butanol; and isooctane, a component of gasoline. In one example, a bacterium would act like a reverse fuel cell: where fuel cells use a fuel to produce electricity, this bacterium would start with electricity and produce octanol, an alcohol fuel. The project is led by Harvard Medical School, demonstrating that ARPA-E is successfully drawing on experts from non-energy fields to help address our energy challenges. Theoretically, producing biofuels from electricity or hydrogen could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches.

In addition, 10 projects will seek to develop a new generation of low-cost battery technologies with ultra-high energy densities for long-range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. The projects will aim to develop a high-energy-density capacitor, an innovative manufacturing process for lithium-ion batteries, and such novel approaches as batteries using lithium-air, lithium-sulfur, and magnesium-ion chemistries; a solid-state lithium battery; a zinc-air "flow" battery, which transfers zinc slurries to charge and discharge the battery; a semi-solid flow battery, combining the best features of rechargeable batteries and fuel cells; and an "all-electron" battery, which stores energy by moving electrons, rather than ions. See the DOE press release, the project list with brief project descriptions (PDF 99 KB), another project list with longer and more technical project descriptions (PDF 135 KB), and the ARPA-E Web site. Download Adobe Reader.