California-based startup, Joule Biotechnologies is developing a unique process using solar energy that converts carbon dioxide into liquid biofuel. This new process could yield up to 20,000 gallons of usable fuel per year per acre of land for approximately the same cost as fossil fuels.
Dubbed Helioculture, the process is composed of carbon dioxide and a solar converter that captures sunlight, turning them into a liquid biofuel. This solar converter contains nutrients, an internal broth of gray water and genetically engineered organisms that use photosynthesis to secrete hydrocarbons that can be used as fuel.
Due to the Helioculture process, many of the traditional problems of solar power and biofuels are avoided. It doesn’t require agriculturally viable land to operate and also requires significantly less land than corn-based biofuels. The most important thing to know is that in comparison with solid solar cells, the resulting liquid fuel has a greater power density, being easily transported without any power degredation.
Joule Biotechnologies plans to build a pilot plant somewhere in the Southwestern United States. If all goes well, the company hopes to have commercial hydrocarbon fuel production in place by 2011 and commercial ethanol production in place by 2010. In the meantime, we don’t now more details about the Joule Biotechnologies process. The specific organism used to secrete the hydrocarbons has not been divulged yet.