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ARPA-E Awards $151M to 37 Projects for Transformative Energy Research

The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected 37 energy research projects for $151 million in funding through the recently formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). This is the first round of projects funded under ARPA-E, which is receiving total of $400 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Among the projects selected are an effort to develop new metal-air batteries using advanced ionic liquids with 6-20 times the energy density of Li-ion batteries at < 1/3 the cost; a project to produce a flow of gasoline directly from sunlight and CO2 using a symbiotic system of two organisms; and a new type of engine for use as a genset in a plug-in hybrid vehicle that is five times more efficient than traditional auto engines in electricity production, 20% lighter, and 30% cheaper to manufacture.

In July, the DOE announced that ARPA-E had received approximately 3,500 submissions for the approximately $150 million available as part of the first Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000065) released 27 April 2009. (Earlier post.) A second set of ARPA-E funding opportunities will be announced in the late Fall.

The awarded grants will go to projects with lead researchers in 17 states. Of the lead recipients, 43% are small businesses, 35% are educational institutions, and 19% are large corporations. The projects selected are grouped into 10 areas:

  • Energy Storage (6 projects)
  • Biomass Energy (5 projects)
  • Carbon Capture (5 projects)
  • Direct Solar Fuels (5 projects)
  • Vehicle Technologies (5 projects)
  • Renewable Power (4 projects)
  • Building Efficiency (3 projects)
  • Waste Heat Capture (2 projects)
  • Conventional Energy (1 project)
  • Water (1 project)


Planar Na-beta Batteries for Renewable Integration and Grid Applications. Eagle Picher, in partnership with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, will develop a new generation of high energy, low cost planar liquid sodium beta batteries for grid scale electrical power storage applications. (DOE grant: $7,200,000)

Electronville: High-Amperage Energy Storage Device-Energy Storage for the Neighborhood. Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will develop a paradigm shifting new all-liquid metal grid scale battery for low cost, large scale storage of electrical energy. (DOE grant: $6,949,624)

Low Cost, High Energy and Power Density, Nanotube-Enhanced Ultracapacitors. FastCAP SYSTEMS, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will develop a new nanotube enhanced ultracapacitor with potential for a 6x improvement in energy density and cost over the current industry state-of-the art. These novel energy storage devices have potential for energy densities approaching those of batteries (33-44 Wh/kg), while providing 20x higher power density and thousands of times the cycle life of existing high performance batteries. If successfully developed, this transformational new energy storage technology would greatly reduce the cost of hybrid and electric vehicles. (DOE grant:$5,349,932)

Sustainable, High-Energy Density, Low-Cost Electrochemical Energy Storage: Metal-Air Ionic Liquid (MAIL) Batteries. Arizona State University, in partnership with Fluidic Energy Inc., will seek to develop a new class of ultra-high energy new metal-air batteries using advanced ionic liquids. Target energy density is 6-20 times that available state-of-the-art Li-ion batteries and at < 1/3 the cost. (DOE grant: $5,133,150)

High Energy Density Lithium Batteries. Envia Systems, in collaboration with Argonne National Laboratory, will develop high energy density, low cost next generation Li-ion batteries using novel nano silicon-carbon composite anodes and high capacity manganese rich layered composite cathodes discovered at Argonne National Laboratory. These batteries, if successfully developed, could triple the energy density of existing electric vehicle batteries (target: 400 Wh/kg) and rapidly hasten adoption of low cost plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles. (DOE Grant: $4,000,000)

Silicon Coated Nanofiber Paper as a Lithium-Ion Anode. Inorganic Specialists Inc, in partnership with Ultramet Inc., Eagle Picher, Southeast Nonwovens, and the Edison Materials Technology Center, will develop ultra high capacity battery anodes for next generation Li-ion batteries (3x the state-of-the art) based on a novel low cost silicon-coated carbon nanofiber paper. (DOE grant: $1,999,447)


MacroAlgae Butanol. DuPont and Bio Architecture Lab, Inc. will develop a commercially viable process for the production of bio-butanol, an advanced biofuel, from seaweed (macroalgae). Seaweed is a potentially sustainable source of biomass for the production of fuels, expanding and building opportunities for bio-butanol as a fuel and fuel extender. (DOE grant: $9,000,000)

Scaling and Commercialization of Algae Harvesting Technologies. Univenture / Algaeventure Systems will develop a harvesting system that dramatically reduces the energy cost necessary to harvest, dewater, and dry algae by using a novel absorbent moving belt harvester. The technology offers the potential to transform the economics of algae-based biofuel production by removing a major barrier to large scale commercialization. (DOE grant: $5,992,697)

High Yielding, Low Input Energy Crops. Ceres has discovered several genes that control nitrogen uptake, assimilation, and storage, resulting in significantly increased biomass accumulation and reduced fertilizer requirements. They will develop a technology to provide low-cost, stable, and sustainable feedstocks sufficient to meet the needs of the bioenergy sector. (DOE grant: $4,989,144)

Conditionally activated enzymes expressed in cellulosic energy crops. Agrivida will develop an innovative technology to produce masked cell wall degrading enzymes within the plant itself that can be activated after harvest, dramatically reducing the cost of cellulosic biofuels and chemicals. (DOE Grant: $4,565,800)

Catalytic Biocrude Production in a Novel, Short-contact Time Reactor. RTI International will work with ADM, Albemarle and ConocoPhillips to develop a novel single-step catalytic biomass pyrolysis process with high carbon conversion efficiency to produce stable bio-crude oil with low oxygen content. The technology seeks to combine pyrolysis oil production, stabilization, and upgrading into one process, creating the potential to reduce the demand for imported oil and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by displacing fossil fuels with biofuels. (DOE grant: $3,111,693)


Pilot Scale Testing of Carbon Negative, Product Flexible Syngas Chemical Looping. A novel process known as Syngas Chemical Looping (SCL), in which coal and biomass are converted to electricity and CO2 is efficiently captured, has been successfully demonstrated on a laboratory scale. In this project, the SCL process, will be scaled up to a 250 kW pilot plant for a planned demonstration at the National Carbon Capture Center. Teaming with Ohio State University are PSRI, CONSOL Energy, Shell/CRI, and Babcock and Wilcox to accelerate this technology towards commercialization and deployment. (DOE grant: $5,000,000)

CO2 Capture with Enzyme Synthetic Analogue. United Technologies Research Center (UTRC) will develop membrane technology for separating CO2 from flue gas streams using synthetic forms of carbonic anhydrase (CA), which natural systems use to manage CO2. Recent academic research has created synthetic analogue molecules for elucidation of CA enzyme mechanisms which are more robust in harsh environments. UTRC will team with Columbia University, CM-Tech, Hamilton Sundstrand and Worley Parsons in this program. (DOE Share: $2,251,183)

Energy Efficient Capture of CO2 from Coal Flue Gas. Nalco and Argonne National Laboratory have partnered to develop an electrochemical process for CO2 capture. A technique known as Resin-Wafer Electrodeionization (RW-EDI) leverages control of pH to adsorb and desorb CO2 from flue gas without the need for heating or a vacuum. The objective is to drastically reduce the current parasitic power loss of 30% that is currently associated with carbon capture from flue gas. (DOE grant: $2,250,487)

Carbon nanotube membranes for energy-efficient carbon sequestration. Porifera Inc will lead a team including the University of California and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that will integrate carbon nanotubes with polymer membranes to increase the flux of CO2 capture membranes by up to 100x. Physical and chemical modifications to the carbon nanotubes will be used to increase the selectivity of the membrane for CO2. The program objective is to demonstrate a more efficient and economical means of carbon capture over current state of the art amine technology. (DOE grant: $1,077,992)

Electric field swing adsorption for carbon capture applications. Electric Field Swing Adsorption (EFSA) is a technique that takes advantage of the ability of electric fields to change the interaction of molecules on a surface. In this project, Lehigh University will apply EFSA to high surface area conductive solid carbon sorbents for the adsorption and desorption of CO2 across a wide range of process conditions. The EFSA technique has the potential for drastically reduced parasitic load compared with current carbon capture methodologies. (DOE grant: $566,641)


Cyanobacteria Designed for Solar-Powered Highly Efficient Production of Biofuels. Arizona State University scientists will develop engineered-cyanobacteria as biocatalysts to use solar energy and carbon dioxide to produce and secret fatty acids for biofuel feedstock. The technology could significantly reduce the cost of biofuel-feedstock production by replacing biomass with a continuous microbial production system. (DOE grant: $5,205,706)

A Genetically Tractable Microalgal Platform for Advanced Biofuel Production. Iowa State will use metabolic engineering and synthetic biology to enhance the production of lipids and increase carbon dioxide assimilation and thermal tolerance within algae for the production of biofuels directly from sunlight and CO2. (DOE grant: $4,373,488)

Affordable Energy from Water and Sunlight. Sun Catalytix Corporation will develop a unique technology to split water into hydrogen and oxygen under benign conditions to enable storage of intermittent renewable solar and wind energy for around-the-clock use. (DOE grant: $4,085,350)

Shewanella as an Ideal Platform for Producing Hydrocarbon Biofuels. The University of Minnesota and BioCee, Inc. will develop an innovative artificial symbiotic colony of a photosynthetic bacterium with Shewanella, a hydrocarbon producing bacteria, to convert carbon dioxide to transportation fuels using sunlight. The technology is feedstock-flexible system for the direct utilization of sunlight and carbon dioxide for liquid fuel production. The R&D seeks to be a major contributor to future-generation direct-solar fuel technologies. (DOE grant: $2,200,000)

Towards Scale Solar Conversion of CO2 and Water Vapor to Hydrocarbon Fuels. The Pennsylvania State University and partner Sentech Corporation will develop catalyst-coated titanium dioxide nanotube membranes to use sunlight to convert carbon dioxide and water to methane and other hydrocarbon fuels. This innovative approach to direct solar fuels captures sunlight and uses CO2 as a carbon source to generate fuels for heating and transportation. (DOE grant: $1,900,067)


Advanced Power Semiconductor and Packaging. Delphi Automotive and International Rectifier will work with Oak Ridge National Laboratory to bring a new power electronics technology from the laboratory to the prototype stage. Their Gallium Nitride on Silicon process coupled with innovative packaging for thermal management power converter will enable power delivery from batteries to electric vehicle motors up to 50% more efficient. (DOE grant: $6,733,383)

High Energy Permanent Magnets for Hybrid Vehicles and Alternative Energy. The University of Delaware, in a consortium with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Northeastern University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Ames Laboratory, and Electron Energy Corporation, will seek to develop world record performance next-generation domestically available permanent magnet materials, with a 2x target increase over the state-of-the art magnetic energy density. High energy permanent magnets are critical components in the new energy economy due to their widespread use in advanced motors for hybrids and electric vehicles and in advanced wind turbine generators, and the currently dominant Nd-Fe-B magnets use materials that are not domestically available and are subject to critical supply disruptions. (DOE grant: $4,462,162)

Lightweight Thermal Energy Recovery (LighTER) System. General Motors will develop a shape memory alloy (SMA) energy recovery device that will convert waste heat from car engines to electricity. Such devices will both increase fuel efficiency by as much as 10% and provide devices with applications in other heat recovery applications. (DOE grant: $2,655,174)

Wave Disk Engine. Michigan State will complete its prototype development of a new gas-fueled electricity generator, five times more efficient than traditional auto engines in electricity production, 20% lighter, and 30% cheaper to manufacture. This novel ultrahigh efficiency engine could replace current backup generator technology of Plug-in Hybrid Electric vehicles. (DOE grant: $2,540,631)

Quaternary Phosphonium Based Hydroxide Exchange Membranes. The University of California at Riverside (UCR) will develop a new generation of fuel cell membranes that are dramatically more ion-conductive, durable and tolerant of abuse than previous devices. (DOE grant: $760,705)


Low-contact drilling technology to enable economical EGS wells. Foro Energy will develop a new hybrid thermal-mechanical drilling technology to enable rapid and sustained penetration of ultra-hard rock formations to open up cost effective access to the US’ vast domestic store of geothermal energy available in deep ultra-hard crytstalline basement rock. (DOE grant: $9,151,300)

Breakthrough High Efficiency Shrouded Wind Turbine. FloDesign will develop a new shrouded, axial-flow wind turbine known as the Mixer Ejector Wind Turbine (MEWT), which is capable of delivering significantly more energy per unit swept area with greatly reduced rotor loading as compared to existing horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT). Prototypes will be built and tested, demonstrating the advantages of lightweight materials and a protective shroud that will reduce noise and safety concerns and accelerate distributed wind applications. (DOE grant: $8,325,400)

1366 Direct Wafer: Enabling Terawatt Photovoltaics. 1366 Technologies, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will develop a new Direct Wafer technology to form high efficiency monocrystalline-equivalent solar silicon wafers directly from the silicon melt at 1/5th the cost of the current industry standard. These next generation solar silicon wafers have the potential to decrease the amount of expensive silicon material needed for silicon solar cells by a factor of > 3 and to decrease installed solar power system costs by a factor of ~2. DOE Grant: $4,000,000.

Adaptive Turbine Blades: Blown Wing Technology for Low-Cost Wind Power. PAX Streamline along with Georgia Tech Research Institute will lead a project to adapt Blown Wing technology for wind turbines, culminating in a 100 kW prototype. Circulation control technology or Blown Wing technology creates a virtual airfoil by jetting compressed air out of orifices along a wing and has the potential to radically simplify the manufacture and operation of wind turbines. Unlike a fixed airfoil, a Blown Wing can be dynamically adjusted to maximize power under a wide range of wind conditions, and can be generated from a slotted extruded pipe that can be domestically manufactured at a fraction of the cost. (DOE grant: $3,000,000)


Large-Scale Energy Reductions through Sensors, Feedback, & Information Technology. Stanford University will develop a comprehensive human-centered solution to track and refine energy use patterns, facilitating energy savings through the use of sensor technology. The system combines behavioral study with human-centered design, computation, and technology. (DOE grant: $4,992,651)

Low-cost Electrochromic Film on Plastic for Net-zero Energy Building. ITN Energy Systems Inc, in partnership with MAG Industrial Automation, EPRI, and the Colorado School of Mines, will develop solid-state electrochromic (EC) film on plastic substrates in order to reduce EC window cost in support of net-zero energy buildings. New actively controlled smart windows and retrofits to existing windows could dramatically reduce energy lost through windows by reducing heating and cooling loads and minimize overhead lighting use. Manufacturing technology for low cost EC films will be developed by utilizing roll to roll production of these films, overcoming the high costs that have limited implementation of EC windows to date. (DOE grant: $4,986,249)

Ammonothermal Bulk GaN Crystal Growth for Energy Efficient Lighting. Momentive Performance Materials, teamed with Advanced Photonic Crystals, and Soraa, will develop a high-pressure ammonothermal process to produce affordable, high quality, single crystal GaN substrates at high crystal growth rates. This development can lead to light emitting diodes (LEDs) at costs equal to current low-cost lighting options, such as fluorescent lighting. LED lighting is practical for residential and commercial applications and consumes as little as one tenth of the energy of comparable options. (DOE grant: $4,519,259)


Advanced Semiconductor Materials for High Efficiency Thermoelectric Devices. Phononic Devices, in partnership with the University of Oklahoma, the University of California Santa Cruz, and the California Institute of Technology, will develop a completely new class of high efficiency thermoelectric devices and materials that combine enhanced Seebeck thermopower with thermally insulating semiconductor materials to increase solid state thermal-to-electric conversion efficiencies to unprecedented levels. More than 60% of all US energy lost is in the form of waste heat from power plants, industrial processes, and vehicles. (DOE grant: $3,000,000)

Harvesting Low Quality Heat Using Economically Printed Flexible Nanostructured Stacked Thermoelectric Junctions. The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, in collaboration with MC10, Inc., will develop an economic and highly scalable non-lithographic approach to fabricate large area arrays of 1-D concentric silicon nanotubes for low cost thermoelectric devices. (DOE grant: $1,715,752)


Upgrading Refinery Off-gas to High-Octane Alkylate. Exelus, in partnership with Zeolyst International and Linde Process Plants, will undertake research to reduce small percentage inefficiencies equate to massive real losses of potential fuel and unnecessarily emitted greenhouse gases because of the scale of refining in the US. One such source of loss is the olefin content of refinery off-gas (ROG) generated from fluid catalytic cracking. This project will develop a technology based on a novel catalyst that will enable dilute olefins from ROG to be converted to high-octane alkylate, resulting in recovery of up to 45 million barrels per year of gasoline. (DOE grant: $1,000,000)


Carbon Nanotube Membrane Elements for Energy Efficient and Low Cost Reverse Osmosis. NanOasis Technologies, Inc. will utilize carbon nanotubes to make industrially scalable high efficiency reverse osmosis membranes with 10 times the flux of existing membranes. If this project is successful, this disruptive technology will enable energy efficient and cost-effective harvesting of fresh water from the 97% of global water found in the oceans and provide a critical source of fresh water for US energy and food crops, power plants, industrial plants, and water-stressed communities. (DOE grant: $2,031,252)



Some many interesting worthwhile R&D projects. Many could lead the way to future high efficiency lower cost BEVs. If the 20 industrial nations would put up similar resources, many new technologies could be developed by 2015/2020.

New batteries with 6 to 20 the energy density at 1/3 cost represent the breakthrough required for mass production of affordable BEVs. Wish they can do it by 2015/2020.

The super caps with 4 to 6 times the energy density would also be a welcomed energy storage device for more efficient PHEVs of all sizes.

Who is going to monitor the progress and results?


It is very nice to see that the Obama administration invests so heavily into the future of the USA. If a third of the projects yield their expected results, green energy can take off.

This is a huge change compared to the previous administration where almost nothing happened.


At least one project fully implemented will pay back for the society all the money invested.


Very exiting times.
In this world one gets what one settles for.

One should not underestimate the resistance to change faced by administrations .


Energy Storage (6 projects)
Biomass Energy (5 projects)
Carbon Capture (5 projects)
Direct Solar Fuels (5 projects)
Vehicle Technologies (5 projects)
Renewable Power (4 projects)
Building Efficiency (3 projects)
Waste Heat Capture (2 projects)
Conventional Energy (1 project)
Water (1 project)

This seems like a good starting list to me :-)


It's difficult to see how America will NOT be leading the world in green tech after all this! Talk about reversal....


five times more efficient than traditional auto engines in electricity production

Uuuuuh, a modern engine can achieve efficiencies of ~30%, higher if it is a diesel. This engine would then have to be 5 x 30% = 150% efficient. Can somebody explain this to me?

George V

I cannot understand this neither.
Maybe one of the existing most efficient reciprocating natural gas engines can attain 44.4% mechanical efficiency (43.5% to electrical power) [operating on the Miller cycle]
MWM Group, Germany.
And the largest 2-stroke diesel (or fuel oil) engines
can attain 52% mechanical efficiency.
And I think the best that can be done by the Prius engine (Atkinson cycle) is about 37% efficiency.


This is still peanuts. A million dollars barely hires 10 decent engineers for one year.
But, hey, it's better than nothing (bush admin.).

Roger Pham

Regarding the disk wave engine: Combining the standing wave pressure with the centrifugal pressure of the centrifugal compressor create higher pressures than possible with just a single stage of compressor, or with a straight-tube standing wave like in the tuned pipe of a 2-cycle engine. Then, by having combustion right within the compressor simulate the cycles of a Diesel engine or Otto engine. The intermittent combustion with cooling by intake air allows for higher peak combustion temperature without expensive nickel alloy as would be required for conventional gas turbines. This is like a marriage or a cross breed between a piston Diesel-cycle engine and a turbine engine, with combined advantages of both: The smooth running and higher power to weight ratio of a turbine combined with the low cost and higher efficiency of a Diesel engine, minus all the complicated valves and cooling system and lubrication systems.

The disadvantage would be that this disk wave engine can only operate at a very narrow range of rpm that enable a standing wave in order to maximize efficiency. Therefore, it can only be used to generate electricity. Furthermore, the intermittent combustion at higher peak temperatures would introduce the emission problems similar to Diesel engines: NOx, PM, HC and CO.

The 5-folds increase in efficiency over that of an auto engine is either hype or typographical error. It's efficiency cannot exceed that of a Diesel engine, having to operate within the same thermodynamic principle/cycle and suffering from the similar losses such as leakage at the edges of the blades, heat transfer loss, and heat loss in the exhaust. Still, we can expect the efficiency to be significantly higher than that of a gas turbine at comparable output.

Henry Gibson

Liquid sodium batteries already in production already are suitable for electric cars, and already are in use for grid power in the US. The not invented here syndrome is in full force. Beta research could have used the money to futher develop what they have been working on for 20 years. Planar is interesting even so but what is necessary is cost reduction. Cerametec should be involved along with GE and MES-DEA. ..HG..

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