The U.S. Department of Energy announced today awards of more than $10 million to five alternative energy research projects, including one in the D.C. region. All five projects involve development of new technologies to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and other usable materials, such as plastics and chemicals used to produce plastics.
Biomass is living matter, like corn. Under certain conditions, it can be converted to energy. Technologies exist today to produce ethanol from corn and agricultural waste. But the Department of Energy’s awards focus on the conversion of biomass into advanced hydrocarbon fuel, sometimes referred to as “drop-in fuel” because it can be used to fuel the same engines that normally run on petroleum-based energy, such as gasoline.
According to the Department of Energy’s press release, “[the five research] projects use innovative synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into processable sugars that can be transformed into bioproducts and drop-in biofuels for cars, trucks, and planes.”
J. Craig Venter Institute, a Maryland non-profit group known for its genomic research, will receive $1.2 million of the total award. According to the company’s website, the Institute employs 300 scientists and staff and utilizes more than 250,000 square feet of laboratory space. It has offices within the D.C. region in Rockville, Maryland, and in California. J. Craig Venter Institute will collaborate with California-based Synthetic Genomics, Inc.