A Cambridge, Mass.-based startup called Joule Biotechnologies launched this week, claiming it has produced — in the laboratory — ethanol and industrial chemicals by combining sunlight, carbon dioxide and a genetically engineered photosynthetic organism. The company is being close-mouthed about the details of the bioengineered microbe and just how it converts CO2 and sunlight into fuel.
On Monday, the latest entrant in the biofuels sweepstakes takes the wraps off a solar-powered technology designed to transform C02 and sunlight into ethanol.
“We capture the energy of the sun into a solar converter,” says Bill Sims, CEO of Cambridge, Mass.-based Joule Biotechnologies. “Inside exists a solution of brackish or gray water, nutrients and highly engineered photosynthetic organisms that directly secrete biofuels. There’s no intermediary that has to be introduced or processed.”
So far, Joule’s “helioculture” technology has only produced ethanol in the lab. But, says Sims, “We’re moving the lab outside as we speak. We aren’t expecting any surprises.” The company, backed by Cambridge venture capital firm Flagship Ventures, plans to begin construction of a pilot production plant in early 2010.
Like Solazyme and other startups that aim to produce biofuels from such things as algae and wood chips, the advantage of Joule’s technology over corn ethanol is that it does not displace agricultural land used for food production.
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