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Patent Awarded for One-Step Diesel Fuel Process

Diesel truck (PRA/Wikimedia Commons)

(PRA/Wikimedia Commons)

Joule Unlimited Inc., a biotech company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said today it received a U.S. patent covering its process for converting sunlight and waste carbon dioxide (CO2) directly into liquid hydrocarbons that are fungible with conventional diesel fuel. Joule says it is the first to achieve and patent a direct, single-step, continuous process for the production of hydrocarbon fuels requiring no raw material feedstocks

The company says the patent -– #7,794,969, titled “Methods and Compositions for the Recombinant Biosynthesis of n-Alkanes” — sets the stage for fossil fuel replacement at higher efficiencies and costs as low as the equivalent of $30 per barrel.

The patent 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 water to directly and continuously produce diesel-range hydrocarbons, which are chemically distinct from biodiesel, but still compatible with existing infrastructure.

Joule says this step clears the path for large-scale renewable fuel production, addressing the cost, resource constraints and energy-intensive steps associated with biomass growth, harvesting, extraction, and refining to reach an end product. The entire process produces more net energy than it consumes and yields sulfur-free, diesel fuel. The company expects to begin pilot production by the end of 2010.


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