Two North Carolina research organizations were among 37 nationwide that will share more than $106 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for research projects that, in the DOE's words, "could fundamentally change the way the country uses and produces energy."
N.C. State University was awarded $2.7 million and Research Triangle Institute was awarded $2 million through the DOE's stimulus-funded initiative called Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, or ARPA-E.
The N.C. state project will attempt to produce energy-rich biofuels such as butanol. Researchers will genetically engineer microbes that are capable of turning hydrogen and carbon dioxide into potent biofuels. The process will entirely bypass the standard method of making biofuels, which involves fermnting sugars produced by plants.
The project by RTI in Research Triangle Park will use solvents to trigger a reversible chemical reaction with carbon dioxide, requiring 40 percent less energy compared to current processes. The technology would be used to remove carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, from power plant emissions. The process would remove C02 for the purposes of underground sequestration.
RTI's partner in the project is BASF, a multimnational chemical company that will support the research from the company's facilities in Houston and in Germany.