Renewable cellulosic fuels and chemicals startup Hyrax Energy has licensed an ionic liquids hydrolysis technology developed in the laboratory of Ron Raines, a University of Wisconsin–Madison biochemistry professor and a Hyrax founder, from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). (Earlier post.) The company’s process creates fermentable sugars, which can be converted into a variety of fuels and chemicals.
The technology, developed with support from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center on the UW–Madison campus, uses ionic liquids to break down cellulosic or non-food plant biomass without using enzymes or costly pretreatment steps typically used to overcome key problems with biomass including its water-insolubility and resistance to molecular deconstruction.
Gaining this licensing agreement for the patent-pending technology allows the company to move forward with its business plan for implementing the technology on a commercial scale. The combination of the license for this technology and Hyrax’s own intellectual property outlines a clear path toward delivering high-value products to a diverse customer base.—Ron Raines
Hyrax’ platform combines the hydrolysis chemistry developed at UW–Madison with a separations technology developed by the company that recycles the ionic liquid very efficiently. The process generates high yields starting from forestry residues, corn stover and dedicated energy crops and produces a clean, concentrated fermentable sugar product that can be converted. The startup is currently raising capital and plans to hire a small number of employees in the coming year.
Hyrax is the first company to emerge from research at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, which was established in 2007. The center generates advances in basic science that can lead to new commercial opportunities based on biofuels. Hyrax previously won the prestigious 2012 Clean Energy Challenge sponsored by the Clean Energy Trust.