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Small Business Grant Funds University Biodiesel Start-Up

Diesel truck (PRA/Wikimedia Commons)

(PRA/Wikimedia Commons)

NextCAT Inc., a Wayne State University start-up company in Detroit, has received a Phase 2 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) of nearly $500,000. The company commercializes catalysts for the production of biodiesel developed at the National Biofuels Energy Laboratory at Wayne State.

NextCAT plans to bring to market catalysts that make it possible for biodiesel producers to convert raw materials — e.g., waste vegetable oil, animal fats, and residual corn oil — into biodiesel. The company says its process can result in savings of at least $1 per gallon versus the traditional biodiesel production process, which can change the economics of a biodiesel plant.

The U.S. biodiesel industry, according to NextCAT, has been mostly idle since 2008, when rising feedstock prices made the production of biodiesel uneconomical. It’s process, says the company, will be able to produce biodiesel fuel at prices competitive with petroleum diesel and help meet anticipated global market demand of approximately 8 billion gallons of biodiesel by 2015.

NextCAT says it can also simplify the biodiesel production process. The same catalysts can process both free-fatty acids and triglycerides — the main ingredient in vegetable oil and animal fats — which allows for less refined and expensive feedstocks, such as waste cooking oil. It also eliminates much of the disposal costs associated with soap extraction and hazardous by-products.

The founders of NextCAT — Simon Ng, Steven Salley, and Shuli Yan — are the inventors of the technology and scientists at the National Biofuels Energy Lab. In addition to the SBIR gant, NextCAT has secured seed funding from Automation Alley and the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund to design, build and install a pilot biodiesel reactor.

Read more: Michigan Start Up Company Licenses Biodiesel Technology

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