Joule Awarded Patents for High Volume Ethanol Production from Sunlight and CO2
Cambridge, Mass. – July 26, 2011 – Joule Unlimited today announced the issuance of its first two U.S. patents covering its fundamental method for producing ethanol at volumes and efficiencies far surpassing biomass-dependent processes.
The patents relate to methods for increasing the ethanol production capability of a photosynthetic microorganism. Unlike competing technologies that utilize microorganisms to produce ethanol by fermenting sugars from cellulose or other biomass materials, Joule's platform microorganism is engineered to produce and secrete ethanol in a continuous process, converting more than 90% of the CO2 it consumes directly to end product, with no reliance on biomass feedstocks.
U.S. Patent #7,981,647 and U.S. Patent #7,968,321, granted on July 19th and June 28th respectively, cover enzymatic mechanisms engineered into the cell by Joule to maximize its ethanol productivity. These innovations, together with Joule's advances in bioprocessing and solar capture and conversion, will help Joule achieve an ultimate target of 25,000 gallons per acre annually – a rate that is 10X greater than that of cellulosic ethanol and 100X greater than corn ethanol – while requiring no depletion of food crops, agricultural land or fresh water. In addition, by eliminating the need for biomass, Joule avoids the burden of fluctuating feedstock cost and supply, as well as the energy-intensive, multi-step conversion of biomass to product. At full-scale commercial production Joule expects to produce ethanol for as little as $0.60/gallon.
"The market for ethanol is strong and growing internationally, and our patented technology affords Joule an incredible opportunity to meet growing demand at productivities well beyond biomass-based approaches," said Bill Sims, President and CEO of Joule. "Rather than focus on incremental improvements along the supply chain, we have proven that a direct, continuous process from photons to fuel is the answer to highly-efficient, cost-competitive production that can scale without today’s feedstock constraints."
Joule is now producing ethanol at pilot scale, and has achieved nearly 50% of its ultimate productivity target in the lab. The company today holds a total of six U.S. patents and more than 70 applications pending, derived from four years of development across biology, processes and systems.
About Joule Unlimited
Joule is advancing a production platform for Liquid Fuel from the Sun™, expected to eclipse the scale, productivity and cost efficiency of any known alternative to fossil fuel today. Its transformative Helioculture™ platform directly and continuously converts sunlight and waste CO2 to infrastructure-ready diesel, ethanol or commodity chemicals with no dependence on biomass feedstocks, downstream processing or precious natural resources. This process can yield renewable fuels and chemicals in unprecedented volumes with a fraction of the land required by current methods, leapfrogging biomass-dependent approaches and eliminating the economic and environmental disadvantages of fossil fuels. Founded in 2007 by Flagship VentureLabs, Joule is privately held and headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Additional information is available at www.jouleunlimited.com.