The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Small Business Vouchers (SBV) Pilot, which is part of DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) National Laboratory Impact Initiative, in collaboration with national laboratories, supports small businesses to advance energy technology and help transform our biomass resources into commercially successful, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. To date, EERE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has provided a total of $1.6 million through two rounds of SBV awards. Round 1 occurred earlier in 2016, and Round 2 vouchers have just been awarded. In the most recent round, DOE is providing $1 million in vouchers to assist five companies.
National laboratories can help small businesses advance innovation, create jobs, and build prosperity. These partnerships provide SBV companies with access to vital technology and allow the laboratories the opportunity to demonstrate their science capabilities. DOE selected five national laboratories to administer the SBV Pilot, including: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL).
The five companies receiving Round 2 SBVs include
- ZymoChem, Berkeley and Emeryville, California (partnership with LBNL): ZymoChem is engineering microbes to eliminate carbon loss during the production of chemicals, such as adipic acid, from renewable feedstocks by designing completely new biosynthetic pathways. ZymoChem will work with the LBNL Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU) to validate E. coli’s capability to tolerate high product concentrations during fermentation and demonstrate the ability to recover purified products for customers to evaluate.
- HelioBioSys, Woodside, California (partnerships with LBNL and SNL): In order to validate cyanobacteria as a renewable source of sugar for biofuel production, HelioBioSys needs to evaluate growth on a larger scale in outdoor conditions to obtain monomeric sugar types and yields, fermentation suitability, and by-product opportunities. Data generated from this study at the LBNL ABPDU and SNL’s indoor algal testbed facility will improve their existing techno-economic model and improve HelioBioSys’ ability to secure funding for a pilot test facility.
- Virent, Madison, Wisconsin (partnership with ANL): Catalyst deactivation shortens catalyst life, decreases yield and selectivity, and increases processing costs. Virent will work with the Advanced Photon Source, a unique user facility with special equipment at ANL, to understand the deactivation mechanisms of their catalysts. Understanding deactivation mechanisms can help Virent design better catalysts to improve the performance and economics of their technology, which produces renewable, direct replacement chemicals and fuels that meet the growing demand for sustainable, high-performance products.
- Mango Materials, Albany, California (partnerships with LBNL and LANL): Mango Materials has a biogas fermentation process to produce sustainable and biodegradable biopolymers. The company is seeking to improve its ability to cost-effectively separate and de-water polyhydroxyalkanoates (PHA) from the fermentation broth and non-PHA cell mass. The goal is to further develop a cost-effective separation process for intracellular products with a path forward to scale-up at the LBNL ABPDU.
- Avatar Sustainable Technologies, Syracuse, New York (partnership with NREL): Avatar uses paper mill waste (fiber rejects) to produce fermentable sugars. The company will evaluate the performance of NREL’s advanced enzyme, “CelA” (cellulase from the bacterium Caldicellulosiruptor bescii), to improve performance of industrial-grade sugars, and NREL will help Avatar develop a value proposition for paper mills while simultaneously processing significant waste (200 tons/day of paper mill waste) that is landfilled.
BETO is accelerating the development of a sustainable, cost-competitive advanced biofuel industry that can strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality, through research, development, and demonstration projects in partnership with industry, academia, and national laboratory partners.
SBV is part of EERE’s Technology-to-Market program. To learn more about the pilot, including eligibility and how to apply, visit the SBV website.