Four Berkeley Lab projects were awarded $1 million from the DOE’s Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) to further collaborative research with industry partners on biofuels, bioproducts, energy microgrid technology, and renewable energy technology.
Two projects from the Biosciences Area were awarded funding for research to:
- Enable rapid strain engineering for the production of biofuels and bioproducts from low-cost gas feedstock
Acetogenic Clostridium is considered the most efficient method of converting abundant low-cost gas feedstock into valuable bioproducts, but many Clostridium strains are difficult to engineer. Yasuo Yoshikuni’s team at the DOE Joint Genome Institute recently developed a technology called chassis-independent recombinase-assisted genome engineering (CRAGE), which offers single-step genomic integration and prototyping of complex pathways. The team will be working with LanzaTech, Inc., in Skokie, IL, to adapt CRAGE for acetogenic Clostridium strains to enable rapid prototyping of complex pathways. The goal is to accelerate the cycle of commercial strain development for production of biofuels and bioproducts from low-cost synthetic gas and waste gas feedstock. The project was awarded $250,000 by the TCF.
- Produce a new aviation biofuel precursor from cellulosic biomass
In this project, Taek Soon Lee’s team at the Joint BioEnergy Institute and Novozymes in Franklinton, NC, will combine their state-of-the-art technologies to cost-effectively produce a very promising biologically derived aviation biofuel precursor, isoprenol, from sustainable lignocellulosic biomass. Isoprenol is an intermediate for 1,4-dimethylcyclooctane (DMCO), which has been identified by the U.S. Navy as a promising aviation biofuel. DMCO has multiple performance advantages over Jet-A1, enabling jets to carry more passengers and/or freight per gallon using existing airframes, and to operate engines at higher temperatures and pressures for improved efficiency of new aircraft engines. The project was awarded $250,000 by the TCF.
Another two projects from the Energy Technologies Area were awarded funding for research to:
- Expand access to and scalability of the microgrid analysis tool
The Distributed Energy Resources Customer Adoption Model (DER-CAM) is a decision-support tool managed by Nicholas DeForest’s team in the Energy Technologies Area to address research questions about the selection, sizing, placement, and operation of distributed energy resource technologies and microgrids. This project with Microgrid Labs will undertake the foundational work of transitioning DER-CAM’s user interface and server architecture from its current prototype to a solution that addresses commercialization needs, such as those of energy consultants and utilities, as well as those of academic researchers for wider market adoption. The project was awarded $200,000.
- Improve hydrogen-based renewable energy sources
The growth of hydrogen-based renewable energy sources as viable alternatives to fossil fuel-based technologies is critically dependent on the development of materials that can significantly influence the efficacy of oxygen electrochemistry. For proton exchange membrane water electrolyzers (PEMWE), a highly promising water splitting device, it is widely recognized that the OER (the anodic half-cell reaction in electrolyzers) catalyst is a limiting factor due to its lower activity, high cost, and instability. Nemanja Danilovic’s team in the Energy Conversion Group are partnering with Pajarito Powder, a catalyst manufacturer, IRD Fuel Cells, an MEA fabricator, and Proton OnSite/NEL, the largest PEMWE company, to synthesize more efficient, yet durable electrocatalysts for improved PEMWE devices. The project was awarded $300,000.
In addition, Jessica Granderson of the Energy Technologies Area is on a team with PNNL, BC Hydro, GreenPath Energy Solutions, Sacramento Municipal Utility District, University of Idaho, and Zepher, that received a $250,000 award for a Sensor Suitcase. The idea for the Suitcase is for a user to install sensors throughout a building to gather data. The sensors are then gathered back into the suitcase and the suitcase is connected to a personal computer. The data is easily transferred to the computer, where analytical software automatically analyzes it and generates building energy-efficiency recommendations.
The Technology Commercialization Fund program managed by the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) offers an opportunity for private industry to partner with DOE’s national labs to advance lab-developed energy technologies and intellectual property toward commercialization. TCF projects require that half of all project costs come from non-federal sources, including industry. More than $33 million was awarded to a total of 82 projects in this FY20 TCF round. Read DOE’s announcement listing all TCF recipients.
OTT expects to announce the call for the next round of TCF proposals in September 2020. The Lab’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and Strategic Partnership Office (SPO) collaborated on the coordination of the Lab’s FY20 proposal submissions. IPO and SPO encourage researchers interested in participating in the next call for TCF proposals to contact Shanshan Li at [email protected] or Todd Pray at [email protected].