This topic seeks to support entrepreneurial energy discoveries, by identifying and supporting disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies within small businesses and collaborations with universities and national labs. These projects have the potential for large-scale impact, and if successful could create new paradigms in energy technology with the potential to achieve significant reductions in U.S. energy consumption, energy-related imports, or energy-related emissions.
These specific projects address technology areas across ARPA-E’s mission spaces, with particular focus on:
- Advanced bioreactors
- Approaches and tools to create enhanced geothermal systems
- Non-evaporative dehydration and drying technologies
- Approaches to significantly enhance the rate and/or potential scale of carbon mineralization
- Separation of CO2 from ambient air (direct air capture)
- High-rate separation of dissolved inorganic carbon from the ocean to produce a CO2 stream
- Advanced trees and other engineered biological systems for carbon sequestration
- Innovative deep ocean collector designs for mining polymetallic nodules
- Environmental sensors capable of operation in deep ocean environments for mining polymetallic nodules
- Non-carbothermic smelting technologies
Awards under this topic are working to support research and establish potential new areas for technology development, while providing ARPA-E with information that could lead to new focused funding programs. The focus of these projects is to support exploratory research to establish viability, proof-of-concept demonstration for new energy technology, and/or modeling and simulation efforts to guide development for new energy technologies.
Take a look at specific projects ARPA-E has funded under this opportunity across the broad range of technical areas outlined below.
BRIMSTONE ENERGY – BERKELEY, CA
CO-GENERATION OF LOW-ENERGY, CO2-FREE HYDROGEN AND ORDINARY PORTLAND CEMENT FROM CA-RICH BASALTS - $500,000
Brimstone Energy is advancing next-generation reactor technologies related to cement production. These processes could potentially reduce U.S. energy consumption by 0.4 quads/year, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 90 megatons/year, and industrial expenditures by $1.8 billion/year across the cement industry.
SEQUOIA SCIENTIFIC, INC. – BELLEVUE, WA
REAL-TIME, IN-SITU SENSING OF SEDIMENT PROPERTIES FOR ENVIRONMENTAL MONITORING OF DEEP-SEA POLYMETALLIC NODULE MINING - $499,767
Sequoia Scientific will develop a monitoring system to assess the concentrations and properties of sediment stirred up during deep-sea mining activities. The technology uses novel laser-light scattering and high‑resolution video imagery and processing to measure the concentration, size, and settling speed of the sediment in situ. The technology will help determine the environmental impact of deep-sea mining activities.
CAMBRIDGE CROPS, INC. – SOMERVILLE, MA
ENABLING TECHNOLOGY - REDUCING GREENHOUSE GAS EMISSIONS AND ENERGY DEMANDS VIA SCALING ADVANCED 3D CULTURE BIOREACTORS - $500,000
Cambridge Crops will develop two advanced bioreactor systems to assess scaling and outcomes for the production of complex, value-added biomaterials as a method for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The technology will determine the feasibility of scaling complex 3D cultures and provide data on suitable mass and energy balances to predict greenhouse gases and energy savings.
DEEP REACH TECHNOLOGY, INC. – HOUSTON, TX
IMPROVED NODULE COLLECTOR DESIGN TO MITIGATE SEDIMENT PLUMES - $497,397
Seabed mining may be the best option to fill the impending gap in terrestrial supplies for nickel, cobalt, and rare earth elements, which are increasingly used to manufacture electric vehicles and large lithium-ion batteries. Deep Reach Technology will design a novel nodule collector to minimize the impact of sediment plumes, which may disperse and cover the seabed beyond the mining area. The project uses augmented screening and seabed electrocoagulation to achieve this goal. The proposed technology has the potential to fast-track deep sea mining.
MOGENE GREEN CHEMICALS, LLC – ST. LOUIS, MO
PHOTOSYNTHETIC MICROORGANISM-BASED CONSORTIA TO CAPTURE CARBON AND BUILD SOIL ORGANIC MATTER - $250,000
MOgene Green Chemicals will develop a novel photosynthetic microorganism-based consortia to capture carbon and build soil organic matter. Intensive agriculture practices, including the removal of residual crops, use of synthetic fertilizer and herbicides, and tillage practices, have led to lost organic matter, increased greenhouse gas emissions, and reduced capacity of the soil to store carbon. If successful, the team’s technology could increase organic matter production, help soil store additional carbon, and create more utilizable nitrogen.
HYPERJET FUSION CORPORATION – CHANTILLY, VA
PLASMA GUNS FOR MAGNETIZED FUEL TARGETS FOR PJMIF - $500,000
HyperJet Fusion is advancing a potentially faster and cheaper approach to fusion energy. In plasma jet driven magneto-inertial fusion (PJMIF), an array of discrete supersonic plasma jets is used to form a spherically imploding plasma liner, which then compresses a magnetized plasma target to fusion conditions. Under this project HyperJet Fusion proposes to advance development of the PJMIF magnetized plasma target by adding a bias field coil to the previously developed plasma liner gun. If successful, the team will produce a plasma target with an embedded magnetic field. The concept could potentially help advance an innovative and highly attractive reactor technology.
COMMUNITY ENERGY, INC. – RADNOR, PA
CHEMICALLY ENGINEERED PROCESS FOR ENHANCED CARBON MINERALIZATION POTENTIAL - $500,000
Carbon mineralization, a promising carbon management technology, is the reaction of CO2 gas with minerals containing magnesium and/or calcium. The reaction forms a stable, solid carbonate, which can be used in building materials. Community Energy will use minerals from the waste produced at mining facilities to enhance the rate of carbon mineralization, increase the amount of available minerals used to capture CO2, and produce building materials, such as aggregate for making cement, which can offset some of the carbon footprint associated with the cement industry.
UHV TECHNOLOGIES, INC. – LEXINGTON, KY
HIGHLY EFFICIENT VACUUM SMELTING OF ALUMINUM - $500,000
UHV Technologies will develop and demonstrate an innovative aluminum smelting technology that will significantly increase the range of aluminum alloys that can be manufactured from recycled scrap aluminum. This will reduce the need for primary aluminum with corresponding energy and environmental benefits. Using UHV’s patented high-throughput sorter, aluminum alloys will be pre-sorted, then melted in an energy-efficient vacuum furnace to avoid the typical 5% metal loss from molten metal oxidation, allowing for lower-cost production of high-value aluminum alloys. Currently ~60% of total U.S. aluminum usage comes from recycling. The proposed technology can be used as a point-of-use smelter at various foundries resulting in almost 50% energy savings during the melting of recycled aluminum to make products.
HIGHT-TECH – ROCKVILLE, MD
ADVANCED CATALYST MANUFACTURING ENABLED BY DIRECT JOULE HEATING - $500,000
Ammonia synthesis reactions, enabled by the Haber–Bosch process, account for approximately 3% of the world’s total energy use. HIGHT-TECH proposes a novel, direct joule (electric current) heating process to enable synthesis of high-entropy alloy nanoparticles with various catalyst compositions. When used in a cascade reactor with a sequence of non- platinum group metals catalyst compositions tailored to a specific stage of the synthesis reaction, this method will produce ammonia synthesis catalysts that deliver more ammonia per pass and require significantly less capital cost and energy to operate.
ULTRASONIC TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS – KNOXVILLE, TN
EXTREMELY FAST AND EFFICIENT DIRECT CONTACT ULTRASONIC DRYING FOR ROLL TO ROLL MANUFACTURING - $500,000
Direct contact ultrasonic drying is a novel, non-evaporative dewatering process that uses no heat to significantly lower the energy required for industrial drying. The technology mechanically removes water by shaking the object rapidly, on the micron scale, using piezoelectric transducers. The technology can achieve 5X higher efficiency and 2-3X faster drying rates than traditional dryers on typical textiles. UTS will develop and demonstrate a proof of concept prototype expanding the technology’s application from a batch into a continuous process, enabling easy integration into roll to roll manufacturing production lines. The technology could have wide application in the textile, pulp and paper, chemical, carbon fiber, and food industries.
OTHERLAB – SAN FRANCISCO, CA
SEASTAR: SELECTIVE THALASSIC AMBULATORY RETRIEVER- $500,000
The abyssal plain contains concentrated deposits of polymetallic nodules (critical minerals), an untapped resource of relevant minerals. Current prototype polymetallic nodule collectors propose to function as indiscriminate vacuums, strip-mining the sea floor and transporting everything to the surface to be filtered, with significant ecological and economic costs. Otherlab proposes to develop the “SeaSTAR” nodule collector, a large platform attached to a vacuum funnel ringed by robot arms. The arms would walk the collector across the abyssal plain while selectively picking up nodules and depositing them into a vacuum for transport to the surface. This selectivity will reduce the environmental impact and cost of deep-sea mining operations.
CELADYNE TECHNOLOGIES, INC. – AUSTIN, TX
NANOIONICS ENABLED PROTON CONDUCTING IONOMERS - $500,000
Celadyne Technologies will develop an innovative elevated temperature proton conducting ionomer material. The team improves upon existing technology relying on acid-base chemistry in favor of an approach driven by defect chemistry and interfacial nanoionic interactions. The technology could improve efficiency in proton exchange membrane fuel cells and electrolyzers and reduce CO2 emissions.
NOON ENERGY, INC. – PALO ALTO, CA
RECHARGEABLE CARBON-OXYGEN BATTERY: A NEW CLASS OF ULTRA LOW-COST, LIGHTWEIGHT ENERGY STORAGE TECHNOLOGY - $500,000
Noon will create a rechargeable battery that turns solar and wind electricity into on-demand power. The battery uses ultra-low-cost storage media and stores energy by splitting CO2 into solid carbon and oxygen. Noon’s technology could provide a low-cost storage option compared with existing batteries.
LECTROLYST LLC – NEWARK, DE
TRANSFORMATION OF CARBON EMISSIONS TO HIGH-VALUE PRODUCTS THROUGH A TWO-STEP ELECTROCHEMICAL PLATFORM - $500,000
Carbon dioxide utilization can help reduce carbon emissions, but gaps remain in the value chain from initial capture to high-value products. Lectrolyst LLC will develop an electrochemical platform centered on selective two-step conversion of CO2 to acetic acid and ethylene, to fill this need. Preliminary life cycle assessment and techno-economic analyses indicate ~200 million metric tons of CO2 emissions reduction when targeting these products at global scale while also competing on a cost basis without considering carbon pricing. Development of this platform is intended to lead to full commercialization.
ULTRA-LOW LOSS TECHNOLOGIES – SANTA BARBARA, CA
SPACE DIVISION MULTIPLEXING WITH MULTI-CORE FIBER FOR ENERGY EFFICIENT INTEGRATED PHOTONIC NETWORKING TECHNOLOGIES - $500,000
To further the development of energy efficient networking technologies for data centers and high-performance computing (HPC) systems, Ultra-low Loss Technologies (ULL) proposes to revolutionize chip-to-chip interconnects through leveraging multi-core fiber (MCF)-based space division multiplexing (SDM) enabled by a novel integrated photonics platform. Success of this technology is projected to bring orders of magnitude reduction in losses compared with competing technologies, directly translating to lower power consumption in computing networks and data centers.
PHYTODETECTORS, INC. – FORT COLLINS, CO
FUNCTIONAL ENGINEERING OF A PHOTOSYNTHETIC DESALINATION PUMP CIRCUIT - $249,733
Phytodetectors will design and engineer a synthetic biological pump circuit to increase the volume of water produced via photosynthetic desalination. This project builds off previous technology designed by Phytodetectors: a mangrove-inspired ultra-filter that allows plants to purify salt water as well as secrete water with properties comparable to bottled water. The partnership seeks to demonstrate the commercial viability of photosynthetic desalination.
VERDOX, INC. – WINCHESTER, MA
ELECTRO-SWING ADSORPTION FOR HIGH EFFICIENCY DIRECT AIR CAPTURE - $500,000
Verdox will develop a scalable, proof-of-concept direct air capture (DAC) prototype used for capturing carbon. The technology uses electrochemical cells to facilitate carbon capture upon charging and releases carbon upon discharging (the “electro-swing”). The proposed project involves development of new materials and electrochemical cells and the fabrication and testing of a prototype.