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Joule's Fuels Outpace Biofuels

Joule Unlimited, a Massachusetts biotechnology company, claims it can now produce diesel fuel from the same ingredients that make plants grow. They ha...

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|Nov 10|magazine7 min read

 

Joule Unlimited, a Massachusetts biotechnology company, claims it can now produce diesel fuel from the same ingredients that make plants grow. They have developed a genetically-engineered organism that secretes diesel or ethanol under conditions of sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. It can be manipulated to produce renewable fuels on demand in mass quantities in facilities of any size and at costs that are competitive with the cheapest fossil fuels.

According to Joule, this could be a huge breakthrough in energy independence. “If we're half right, this revolutionizes the world's largest industry, which is the oil and gas industry. And if we're right, there's no reason why this technology can't change the world,” said Joule's chief executive Bill Sims.

While the company has only been around since 2007, it has doubled its employees and earned millions in private funding since. Joule claims they have been working to eliminate the middleman that has been making the production of biofuels so costly, making the new organisms much more efficient at producing fuel than most algae at a mere $30 per barrel.

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Joule plans on building facilities near power plants, so their cyonabacteria can consume carbon dioxide waste. As of February, the potential of the company's production process was supported with the publication of a detailed analysis of its breakthrough platform. Published by Photosynthesis Research, the peer-reviewed article examines the company's advantages of producing renewable fuel and chemical production with yields up to 50 times greater than the maximum potential of any process requiring biomass.

"In contrast to research of the past, we have shown that photosynthesis is the superior platform technology for direct, renewable fuel production at the volumes and costs required to supplant fossil fuels," said Dan Robertson, PhD, co-author of the article and Senior Vice President of Biological Sciences at Joule. "The engineering of a photosynthetic microorganism to directly synthesize an infrastructure-compatible product, and continuously secrete that product, represents a landmark in industrial bioprocessing. The process technology is equally unique in that a highly-efficient, low-cost SolarConverter® system enables unprecedented productivity, as fully explained in our analysis and now being demonstrated at pilot scale."

 

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