MIT and startups that hail from the university were some of the big recipients today in a $151 million round of grants from the Department of Energy for experimental energy concepts.
The grants come from ARPA-E, which is charged with looking for futuristic, next-generation energy concepts. Most will fail, but some might work. The same sort of program was employed in the 1960s to create the basis for the internet. As reported earlier, Arun Majumdar will leave the University of California and Lawrence Berkeley National Labs to run the organization. DOE Secretary Steven Chu will be at Google headquarters today to discuss it.
MIT will receive $6.9 million to conduct research on a liquid battery that could provide power to utilities. It sounds something like a flow battery. The grant was one of the largest, but not the only one with an MIT connection. 1366 Technologies, asolarstartup, which grew out of MIT's labs, got a $4 million grant. SunCatalyx, a Cambridge company founded by MIT's Daniel Nocera that exploits sunlight to produce hydrogen from water, got $4 million. Another MIT company, ultracap maker FastCap Systems, got $5.3 million.
FloDesign Wind Turbine, which won the 2008 MIT Clean Energy Prize, was awarded $8.3 million to further perfect its wind turbine that resembles a jet engine.
Storage and solar were two of the dominant themes. Storage researchers received approximately $23 million in grant money while solar researchers got over $21 million. The majority of the solar money, however, went to "direct" solar energy – i.e., technologies that use sunlight to transform other molecules into a type of fuel. Penn State, for instance, got nearly $2 million to experiment with a titanium oxide barrier that can take sunlight and carbon dioxide and produce methane. The University of Minnesota has a microbe that can take sunlight and make a hydrocarbon.
Over $10 million went to Arizona State in a set of two grants: one, around $5 million, for metal-air batteries and another for bacteria-powered fuel cells.
Carbon capture companies received around $11 million. One recipient was Porifera, which has a membrane that can capture carbon dioxide. Porifera has also been working on a membrane for desalination.