U researchers receive grant to use bacteria as a biofuel

The U is one of 37 schools and businesses given grant money by the Department of Energy.


A group of University of Minnesota researchers and BioCee, a University start-up company, received a $2.2 million research grant by the Department of EnergyâÄôs to research bacteria as a biofuel. A total of $151 million was given to 37 different universities and businesses, averaging $4 million each, in 17 states to look for the next renewable energy source. The grant is coming from the Energy DepartmentâÄôs Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). âÄúTheyâÄôre looking for what is going to be relevant in the future,âÄù Marc Von Keitz, CEO and CTO of BioCee, said. This first wave of grants is to âÄúspur the next Industrial Revolution in clean energy technologiesâÄù and to create thousands of jobs while also cutting down on carbon pollution, Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Monday in a speech announcing grant recipients. The University team was also one of four teams highlighted on the ARPA-E website for the most innovative idea. Using a bioreactor, University researchers and BioCee believe they can produce hydrocarbon fuel from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide using blue-green algae and Shewanella, a type of bacteria. âÄúThis is a collaborative effort,âÄù Von Keitz said. âÄúItâÄôs not a biology project âÄî itâÄôs an engineering project as well.âÄù The total of $151 million in research grants is the first of $400 million President Barack Obama gave to ARPA-E as part of its initial funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. About 3,700 pre-proposals were submitted, and after a detailed screening process by 500 scientists selected by university presidents, only one percent were awarded money. ARPA-E focuses on high-risk and high-payoff energy ideas with a goal of reducing the United StatesâÄô dependency on energy from foreign sources. ARPA-E plans to announce a second set of funding opportunities later this year.