Our weekly compendium of renewable energy news and information from around the Web.
Out of Thin Air?
Joule Biotechnologies claims to be able to convert CO2 and sunlight directly into hydrocarbons with its custom engineered microbes, according to reports. According to the company’s press release:
“Joule is advancing a new, photosynthesis-driven approach to producing renewable fuels, avoiding the economic and environmental burden of multi-step, cellulosic or algal biomass-derived methods. The company employs a novel SolarConverter™ system, together with proprietary, product-specific organisms and state-of-the-art process design, to harness the power of sunlight while consuming waste CO2. Its pioneering technology platform has already been proven out with the conversion of CO2 into ethanol at high productivities, a process that enters pilot development in early 2010. With this latest feat of genome engineering, Joule is now capable of directly producing hydrocarbons – setting the stage for delivery of infrastructure-compatible diesel fuel without the need for raw material feedstocks or complex refining.
The breakthrough was made possible by the discovery of unique genes coding for enzymatic mechanisms that enable the direct synthesis of both alkane and olefin molecules – the chemical composition of diesel. Production was achieved at lab scale, with pilot development slated for early 2011.”
It’s an intriguing idea. Hydrocarbons are formed naturally through a combination of photosynthesis, decomposition, time and pressure. Chemically, it ought to be possible for a microbe to produce hydrocarbon molecules directly.
The company’s announcement says that they have demonstrated the process in a lab and plan to have a demonstration project in 2011. What remains to be seen is whether the fast-forwarding of nature’s processes that Joule’s method enables can be done on a profitable basis at scale. If it can, hold onto your horses.
Leaving on a Jet Plane?
Recent statements from representatives of the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Energy suggest that government leaders are focusing on the role of biofuels for aviation. The Air Force has announced a $2.5 million biofuel research facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Biofuels Digest lists the players involved in developing biofuels for aviation applications.
Glut of Solar Panels Ending?
A research group that forecast a glut of solar panels through 2010 now believes that a surge in demand from German has taken up the slack and that demand is now catching up with supply. Prices for solar panels had dropped through much of 2009 as supplies exceeded sales but German and European purchases have picked up in late 2009 and prices seem to be stabilizing, according to reports.
Write to Us!
Know of a story that we should cover? Write to us at “editor at renewableenergymemo.com”.