The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Advanced Technology Office (ATO) is soliciting proposals for biofuel alternatives to JP-8 under a Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) it issued earlier this month.
DARPA is interested in proposals for research and development efforts to develop a process that efficiently produces a surrogate for petroleum-based military jet fuel (JP-8) from oil-rich crops produced by either agriculture or aquaculture (including but not limited to plants, algae, fungi, and bacteria) and which ultimately can be an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8.
Conventional biodiesel produced via transesterification is 25% lower in energy density than JP-8, and exhibits unacceptable cold-flow features at the lower extreme of the required JP-8 operating range (-50° F). Subsequent secondary processing of biodiesel is currently inefficient and results in biofuel JP-8 being prohibitively expensive.
The goal of the BioFuels program is to enable an affordable alternative to petroleum-derived JP-8. The primary technical objective of the BioFuels program is to achieve a 60% (or greater) conversion efficiency, by energy content, of crop oil to JP-8 surrogate and elucidate a path to 90% conversion.
DARPA is encouraging the consideration of process paths that minimize the use of external energy sources, which are adaptable to a range or blend of feedstock crop oils, and which produce process by-products that have ancillary manufacturing or industrial value.
Potential approaches may include thermal, catalytic, or enzymatic technologies or combinations of these. DARPA anticipates that the key technology developments needed to obtain the program goal will result from a cross-disciplinary approach spanning the fields of process chemistry and engineering, materials engineering, biotechnology, and propulsion system engineering.
While the efficiency of the oil to JP-8 conversion process is the primary objective of this solicitation, the cost and availability of the necessary feedstock materials is also a factor. The development of conversion process technologies compatible with oils from a broad range of crops, potentially including new crop stocks selected specifically for their oil harvest, is preferred. Proposers will be required to provide a production cost model supporting their assertions of affordability.
The program will be an exploratory evaluation of processing crop oils into a JP-8 surrogate biofuel, resulting in a laboratory scale production to be tested at a suitable DOD test facility. The successful proposer is expected to deliver a minimum of 100 liters of JP-8 surrogate biofuel for initial government laboratory qualification. This final deliverable is in addition to any interim materials the proposer provides the government for intermediate test and evaluation purposes. Proposers should clearly identify the schedule and scope of any requested in-progress testing the government is to perform.
The criteria to be used to evaluate and select proposals for this project are in descending order of importance: (a) Technical Approach; (b) Potential Contribution and Relevance to the BioFuels Program Objectives and the DARPA Mission; (c) Offerors Capabilities and Related Experience; (d) Technology Transition Approach; and (e) Cost Reasonableness and Realism.