This second round of ARPA-E grants will go to projects in three areas:
- Making advanced biofuels from renewable electricity or hydrogen instead of sunlight.
- Designing new types of batteries to make electric vehicles more efficient and affordable.
- Removing carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants in a more cost-effective way.
One key area of focus is the field of "electrofuels." ARPA-E grants were awarded to 13 projects that will start with microorganisms such as bacteria or microbes, and then add electricity or hydrogen to produce products such as bio-oil; biodiesel; jet fuel; alcohol fuels such as butanol; and isooctane, a component of gasoline. In one example, a bacterium would act like a reverse fuel cell: where fuel cells use a fuel to produce electricity, this bacterium would start with electricity and produce octanol, an alcohol fuel. The project is led by Harvard Medical School. Theoretically, producing biofuels from electricity or hydrogen could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches.
In addition, 10 projects will seek to develop a new generation of low-cost battery technologies with ultra-high energy densities for long-range plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles.