|Joule Biotechnologies uses proprietary, highly-engineered product-specific organisms to produce renewable fuels and chemicals. Click to enlarge.|
Joule Biotechnologies, Inc., a bioengineering startup, unveiled its Helioculture technology—a system that leverages highly engineered photosynthetic organisms to catalyze the conversion of sunlight and CO2 to usable transportation fuels and chemicals. Among the co-founders of Joule Biotechnologies is Harvard Medical School Professor of Genetics George Church, who also co-founded LS9.
Joule’s SolarFuels meet today’s vehicle fuel specifications and infrastructure; the company expects to achieve widespread production at the energy equivalent of less than $50 per barrel. The company’s first product offering, SolarEthanol fuel, will be ready for commercial-scale development in 2010. Joule has also demonstrated proof of concept for producing hydrocarbon fuel and expects process demonstration by 2011.
Joule says that its direct-to-fuel conversion requires no agricultural land or fresh water, and leverages a highly scalable system capable of producing more than 20,000 gallons of renewable ethanol or hydrocarbons per acre annually. Such yields would far eclipse productivity levels of current bio- or renewable fuels.
There is no question that viable, renewable fuels are vitally important, both for economic and environmental reasons. And while many novel approaches have been explored, none has been able to clear the roadblocks caused by high production costs, environmental burden and lack of real scale. Joule was created for the very purpose of eliminating these roadblocks with the best equation of biotechnology, engineering, scalability and pricing to finally make renewable fuel a reality—all while helping the environment by reducing global CO2 emissions.—Bill Sims, president and CEO of Joule Biotechnologies
Joule says that its SolarConverter system facilitates the entire process—from sunlight capture to product conversion and separation—with minimal resources and polishing operations. This represents an advantage over biomass-derived biofuels, including newer algae- and cellulose-based forms, which are hindered by varying obstacles: costly biomass production, numerous processing steps, substantial scale-up risk and capital costs.
The modular SolarConverter design is engineered to meet demand on a global scale while requiring just a fraction of the land needed for biomass-based approaches. It can be easily customized depending on land size, CO2 availability and desired output. The functionality is proven and can readily scale from smaller operations with limited land to extensive commercial plants. Additional benefits enabled by the system include:
Multiple Product Lines. The same conversion technology and modular system used to produce SolarFuel liquid energy will also enable the production of SolarChemical products, several of which have already been demonstrated at laboratory scale.
Optimal Storage of Solar Power. Because Joule harnesses the sun to produce energy in the form of liquid fuel, it overcomes a major obstacle to the broad-based use of solar power, namely storage. SolarFuel liquid energy has up to 100 times the energy storage density of conventional batteries, and can be very efficiently stored and transported with no degradation of power.
Founded in 2007 by Flagship Ventures, Joule is privately held and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.