Joule Receives Patent for Sunlight-to-Diesel Process

Joule Unlimited, Inc., a company that is working to convert sunlight and waste carbon dioxide (CO2) directly into liquid hydrocarbons announced that it has received a U.S. patent for its process.

Unlike biofuel processes that require intermediates such as sugar, algal or agricultural biomass, Joule says it is has achieved a single-step, continuous process for the production of hydrocarbon fuels requiring no raw material feedstocks to produce liquid hydrocarbons that can replace conventional diesel fuel.

The company predicts that it can achieve efficiencies and costs as low as $30 per barrel equivalent.

The U.S. Patent, titled “Methods and Compositions for the Recombinant Biosynthesis of n-Alkanes,” covers the use of engineered photosynthetic microorganisms for the direct synthesis of diesel molecules. Joule’s microorganisms function as biocatalysts that use only sunlight, waste CO2 and non-fresh water to produce diesel-range hydrocarbons. According to Joule, the entire process, which the company calls Helioculture, produces more net energy than it consumes and yields sulfur-free, ultra-clean diesel.

Joule says the integrated platform will enable production with a commercial target of 15,000 gallons of diesel per acre annually. The company intends to begin pilot production by the end of 2010.

The company also says it can produce ethanol via the same process at a rate of 10,000 gallons/acre/year, 40% of its ultimate productivity target, and pilot operations are underway in Leander, Texas.

Since inception Joule has pursued a strong IP position, operating in “stealth mode” for its first two years as patent applications were filed. Joule’s IP portfolio now includes two issued U.S. patents and numerous patent filings. The company’s first patent, U.S. Patent, “Hyperphotosynthetic Organisms,” relates to aspects of an engineered photosynthetic microorganism for fuel production, and was granted on August 31, 2010.

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