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OPEN 2009

University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign

Harvesting Low Quality Heat Using Economically Printed Flexible Nanostructured Stacked Thermoelectric Junctions

The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) is experimenting with silicon-based materials to develop flexible thermoelectric devices--which convert heat into energy--that can be mass-produced at low cost. A thermoelectric device, which resembles a computer chip, creates electricity when a different temperature is applied to each of its sides. Existing commercial thermoelectric devices contain the element tellurium, which limits production levels because tellurium has become increasingly rare. UIUC is replacing this material with microscopic silicon wires that are considerably cheaper and could be equally effective. Improvements in thermoelectric device production could return enough wasted heat to add up to 23% to our current annual electricity production.

University of Minnesota

Shewanella as an Ideal Platform for Producing Hydrocarbons

The University of Minnesota (UMN) is developing clean-burning, liquid hydrocarbon fuels from bacteria. UMN is finding ways to continuously harvest hydrocarbons from a type of bacteria called Shewanella by using a photosynthetic organism to constantly feed Shewanella the sugar it needs for energy and hydrocarbon production. The two organisms live and work together as a system. Using Shewanella to produce hydrocarbon fuels offers several advantages over traditional biofuel production methods. First, it eliminates many of the time-consuming and costly steps involved in growing plants and harvesting biomass. Second, hydrocarbon biofuels resemble current petroleum-based fuels and would therefore require few changes to the existing fuel refining and distribution infrastructure in the U.S.

ARPA-E checks back in with 1366 Technologies, one year after the company was profiled at the 2011 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit. With the help of ARPA-E funding, 1366 is developing an innovative way to produce low-cost silicon wafers for solar energy applications. 

Ceres, with the help of ARPA-E funding, has rethought biofuels from the ground up. Their forward thinking approach to overcoming the traditional barriers for biofuels has resulted in creating high biomass feedstocks for switchgrass, sorghum, and miscanthus varietals. These new breeds grow taller and thicker on traditionally low rent farmland that doesn't compete with corn or other food crops.

The story of an ARPA-E awardee doesn’t necessarily end when ARPA-E funding runs out. Two ARPA-E awardees—Eagle Picher Technologies and Baldor Electric Company—have developed technologies to the point where internal stakeholders of their respective companies committed additional funds to help these technologies achieve success in the market. This video features remarks from ARPA-E Technology-to-Market Advisor Kacy Gerst and interviews with technologists at Eagle Picher and Baldor, who each tell the story of how they achieved buy-in from their internal leadership to further develop their ARPA-E-funded technologies.

Many ARPA-E-funded universities and research institutions have created start-up companies to further catalyze their next-generation technologies. Ambri and BlackPak are two examples of ARPA-E projects that were spun out by other institutions—Massachusetts Institute of Technology and SRI International, respectively—in an effort to get their technologies out of the lab and into the market quickly. This video features remarks from ARPA-E Senior Commercialization Advisor Sue Babinec and interviews with technologists at Ambri and BlackPak, who each tell the story of how their new companies spun out of the lab and have become agile, thriving startups capable of delivering real products to the marketplace.

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