ARPA-E unveils Project PETRO

April 26, 2011 |

ARPA-E aims to unleash new plants that recover more sunshine and produce more fuels

In Washington, US Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced that up to $130 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will be made available to develop five new program areas that could spark critical breakthrough technologies and secure America’s energy future.

Of the total funding, $30 million is focused  on biofuel – a program titled “Plants Engineered To Replace Oil (PETRO)”.

The funding opportunity announcement comes two months after ARPA-E announced six of its projects have secured more than $100 million in outside private capital investment – indications that the business community is eager to invest in truly innovative solutions to the country’s energy challenges.

Plants Engineered To Replace Oil (PETRO)

Technologies for low-cost production of advanced biofuels are limited by the small amount of available energy captured by photosynthesis and the inefficient processes used to convert plant matter to fuel. PETRO aims to create plants that capture more energy from sunlight and convert that energy directly into fuels. ARPA-E seeks to fund technologies that optimize the biochemical processes of energy capture and conversion to develop robust, farm-ready crops that deliver more energy per acre with less processing prior to the pump.

If successful, PETRO will create biofuels for half their current cost, finally making them cost-competitive with fuels from oil. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area.

“ARPA-E is unleashing American innovation to strengthen America’s global competitiveness and win the clean energy race,” said Secretary Chu. “In addition to creating new jobs, breakthroughs in clean energy technologies can reduce our country’s dependence of foreign oil, decrease the cost of clean electricity, and build a sustainable infrastructure for future generations of Americans.”

Fourth round of funding from ARPA-E

The announcement is ARPA-E’s fourth round of funding opportunities. In its first year, ARPA-E awarded $363 million in Recovery Act funding to 121 groundbreaking energy projects based in 30 states, with approximately 39% of projects led by universities, 33% by small businesses, 20% by large businesses, 5% by national labs, and 3% by non-profits.

The five technology areas announced today will join ARPA-E’s existing program in non-photosynthetic biofuels (Electrofuels), ten other technology areas, and its initial open solicitation.

More from ARPA-E.

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