Written by Tina Casey, Published on February 15th, 2010
Joule Biotechnologies, Inc. has just announced that a lease agreement has been signed for a new facility in Leander, Texas, which will serve as a pilot plant to develop the company’s solar powered system for producing ethanol and other biofuels. The energy efficient process is based on photosynthetic microorganisms and it operates without the use of conventional biomass or algae biofuel processes.
CleanTechnica and Gas 2.0 have been eagerly following Joule’s progress, and the company has already produced ethanol and diesel at a lab scale rate. It plans to start ethanol production this year at the pilot plant, with diesel to follow early next year. Once operating at full scale, the facility has the potential to deliver at the rate of 25,000 gallons of ethanol per acre yearly, and 15,000 gallons of diesel. That could be the tip of the iceberg, because the same process can also yield a variety of high-value chemicals in addition to biofuels.
Joule prefers to call its system “solar fuel,” and rightfully so. The heart of the process is the company’s proprietary SolarConverter, which contains photosynthetic organisms in a bath of brackish water and nutrients, with carbon dioxide fed in. While the concept is similar to producing algae biofuel, there are several significant twists. The organisms are not algae, they are bio-engineered proprietary organisms that produce and secrete fuel without the need for costly fermentation processes, extraction or refinement processes. The system also skips the need to collect and transport large quantities of biomass. …