Lab Partnering Service Discovery
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In some parts of the developing world, people may live in homes without electricity or toilets or running water but yet they own cell phones. To charge those phones, they may have to walk for miles to reach a town charging station—and possibly even have to leave their phones overnight. Now a startup company spun off technology developed at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has created a simple, inexpensive way to provide electricity to the 2.5 billion people in the world who don’t get it reliably.Point Source Power’s innovative device is based on a solid oxide fuel cell that is powered by burning charcoal, wood or other types of biomass—even cow dung—the types of fuel that many in the developing world use for cooking. The fuel cell sits in the fire and is attached to circuitry in a handle that is charged as the fuel cell heats up to temperatures of 700 to 800 degrees Celsius. The handle, which contains an LED bulb, can then be detached and used for lighting or to charge a phone.
An introduction facilitated by the EERE's Energy Innovation Portal has led to the formation of a Colorado start-up company. Syed Reza, now a co-founder of Nexus BioEnergy, originally used the Techportal to search out promising biogas technologies. In a message sent through the portal, Syed contacted Jeremy Nelson, Director of Licensing & Business Development for CSU Ventures, which acts as the university technology transfer office for Colorado State. After several months of discussions with Prof. Sybil Sharvelle and her graduate student, Lucas Loetcher, the inventors of a low water use anaerobic digester technology specially developed for the concentrated animal feeding operations in the arid west, the three decided to found a company to commercialize this technology.
The technology is highly efficient compared to conventional biogas plants with 2-5X lower construction cost, and low operating costs. Furthermore, while conventional biogas plants rarely handle material with >40% solids loading, the CSU technology handles wastes that are as high as 80% solids. In contrast to conventional composting technologies, which result in loss of energy and nutrients from the biomass, the CSU technology produces energy and also recovers valuable nutrients in a product that is nutritionally superior to compost and is highly attractive for organic farming. The system is modular, which provides several benefits:
- It is simple to expand and easily adjusts to variable demand.
- Conditions within each reactor are optimized for each step in the digestion process.
- Additional sources of waste (e.g., food waste, low solids waste) may be straightforwardly integrated into the system.
Nexus BioEnergy is currently seeking strategic partners and early capital investment to demonstrate the technology in a small scale pilot facility. More information, including contact info, can be found at the company's website.
The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) played crucial roles in developing the technology that has led companies such as DuPont, POET, and Abengoa to open commercial-scale facilities to turn biomass into clean transportation fuels.
Combined, the three facilities are a huge step toward meeting the Department's goals of producing clean energy from the non-food parts of plants, creating good American jobs, mitigating greenhouse gases, and boosting America's energy security.
- POET's Project Liberty opened last September in Emmetsburg, Iowa, and is projected to produce 20 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.
- Abengoa's Biomass of Kansas facility in Hugoton, Kansas, opened last October and has an estimated annual bioethanol production capacity of 25 million gallons.
- DuPont's facility in Nevada, Iowa, will open in 2015 and is designed to produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol per year.
All three companies turned to NREL for the lab's biofuels expertise—POET for pretreatment, Abengoa for compositional analysis, and DuPont for several crucial steps in the process.
Fore more NREL success stories visit http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/success_stories.html