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Energy Department Awards College $8.9 million in ARPA-E Grants

Men looking at thingsResearch by L.S. Fan (left) aims to achieve clean energy production by converting coal and/or biomass into electricity and/or hydrogen while efficiently capturing the CO2.

The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Ohio State with two Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) awards, positioning the university as a leader in energy research and development and retaining its status among the nation’s elite educational institutions as one of only 10 universities awarded two or more ARPA-E grants.

The two ARPA-E awards possess the potential to significantly change the ways the U.S. produces energy, through research oncarbon negative chemical looping gasification technologyand bioconversion of carbon dioxide to biofuels.

Ohio State received its first ARPA-E grant, for $5 million, in October 2009 for L.S. Fan's project, “Pilot Scale Testing of Carbon Negative, Product Flexible Syngas Chemical Looping.” Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, aims to achieve clean energy production by converting coal and/or biomass into electricity and/or hydrogen while efficiently capturing the CO2. The project has been successfully demonstrated at the bench and sub-pilot scales. The ARPA-E funding will allow this project to scale up to a pilot plant at the National Carbon Capture Center.

Fan’s chemical looping gasification process has the potential to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions while using domestic energy sources such as coal and biomass. Ohio State is partnering with Air Products, Babcock and Wilcox, CONSOL Energy, Clearskies Consulting, PSRI and Shell/CRI on this project.

other men looking at other thingsRobert Tabita (right) discusses his research with Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. Tabita’s research proposes to create transportation fuels without petroleum through the efficient bioconversion of carbon dioxide into butanol, an infrastructure-compatible liquid

In the second ARPA-E grant, awarded in April 2010, Robert Tabita, professor of microbiology, natural resources, and plant cellular and molecular biology, is working with S.T. Yang, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, and scientists at Battelle to develop butanol as an alternative fuel to gasoline.

The project, “Bioconversion of Carbon Dioxide to Biofuels by Facultatively Autotrophic Hydrogen Bacteria,” received $3.9 million for an industrially scalable bioreactor approach to incorporate genetically engineered bacteria that metabolizes carbon dioxide, oxygen and hydrogen to produce butanol. The team anticipates at least a twofold productivity improvement over current levels and a cost that can be competitive with gasoline.

The ARPA-E program was established in 2007 to fund projects at universities, federal laboratories and businesses developing transformational technologies to reduce America’s dependence on foreign energy imports; reduce U.S. energy related emissions; improve energy efficiency across all sectors of the U.S. economy; and ensure that the U.S. maintains its leadership in developing and deploying advanced energy technologies.