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Bay Area firms land energy research grants

The U.S. Department of Energy today announced 10 California projects – including nine in the Bay Area – will get $34.5 million for research that could change how the nation uses and produces energy.

The grants are part of a total $106 million handed out to 37 projects in 17 states through the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

“Thanks to the Recovery Act, dozens of cutting-edge research projects with the potential to dramatically transform how we use energy in this country will now be able to get underway,” Vice President Joe Biden said in announcing the awards. “By investing in our top researchers, we’re not only continuing in the spirit of American innovation, but helping build a competitive American clean energy industry that will create secure jobs here at home for years to come.”

The California grants announced today include:

  • $4,996,311 to the PolyPlus Battery Company of Berkeley to develop rechargeable Lithium-Air batteries for electric vehicle use;
  • $4,657,045 to Codexis Inc. of Redwood City for research in using enzymes and certain techniques to capture more carbon dioxide from the discharges of coal-fired power plants;
  • $4,373,990 to Applied Materials Inc. of Santa Clara for development of a new, low-cost manufacturing process for ultra-high energy lithium-ion batteries;
  • $4 million to the University of California, Los Angeles to use synthetic biology and metabolic engineering techniques to let microorganisms use electricity instead of sunlight for converting carbon dioxide into alcohol fuels that can be high-octane gasoline substitutes;
  • $3,948,493 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to engineer a common soil bacterium to produce butanol and hydrocarbons from carbon dioxide and hydrogen and produce its own hydrogen by splitting water in the presence of electricity;
  • $3,665,000 to Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to develop synthetic small-molecule catalysts that greatly speed up the absorption of carbon dioxide, allowing for g advanced solvents that bind the gas less tightly and so reduce the energy needed to release the gas afterwards;
  • $3,663,696 to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to use robotic instrumentation tools and computational algorithms to speed development of metal organic framework materials to better capture carbon dioxide at coal-fired power plants;
  • $3,204,080 to Pellion Technologies Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a the world’s first cheap, rechargeable commercial magnesium-ion battery for electric and hybrid-electric cars;
  • $1,000,000 to Stanford University to develop an “All-Electron Battery,” a completely new class of electrical energy storage devices for electric cars; and
  • $1,000,000 to Recapping Inc. of Menlo Park to develop a novel energy storage device – a high energy density capacitor – based on a 3D nanocomposite structure.
  • A third round of ARPA-E funding opportunities was announced in March with project selections to be announced this summer.

    Josh Richman

    Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.