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Genetic Engineering of a Microbial Chassis for Electrosynthesis and Electrofermentation
With rapidly increasing proliferation and declining costs of renewable energy generation, methods of storing excess electricity become increasingly important. One such method was previously patented by Dr. Derek Lovley and Dr. Kelly Nevin. In their patented method, microorganisms use electricity to convert water and carbon dioxide into multi-carbon chemicals and fuels, akin to the reverse operation of a microbial fuel cell. This invention builds upon the inventors’ patent. Here, they created a genetically-modified strain of Geobacter sulfurreducens, whose electrical current consumption rate is more than 10x higher than the wild-type strain, greatly enhancing the conversion process. This new strain also provides a platform for producing a wide variety of high-value carbonaceous products previously not possible through this method.
Published: 5/3/2018   |   Inventor(s): Derek Lovley, Toshiyuki Ueki, Kelly Nevin Lovley
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Life Sciences
Improved Wind Turbine
A longstanding source of major inefficiency in a wind farm is wake effects from upstream turbines, which can slow down wind entering downstream turbines. To mitigate this problem, tethered kites placed between turbine rows in a wind farm have been proposed. These kites mix this slower air with faster air from higher up in the atmosphere to increase the speed of wind entering downstream turbines. However, because the kites are tethered to the ground separately from the turbines, they randomly mix air in the wind farm depending on the direction the wind is blowing. For this reason, they can’t be equally efficient for all wind directions.

In this invention, an airfoil structure is directly attached to the turbine, allowing it to most efficiently interact with the wind regardless of its direction. Rather than attempting to mix air, this invention moves the lower speed air below the downstream turbine, displacing it with higher speed air from above. By eliminating the wake effects, this invention has the potential to improve wind farm efficiency by 15-20% and to allow for closer turbine spacing, both major drivers of cost. The invention also has beneficial applications in offshore wind, as the uplift force on the turbine from the airfoil provides much needed stabilization.

Published: 4/27/2018   |   Inventor(s): Blair Perot, Shujaut Bader
Category(s): Clean Energy, Engineering
Method for Reducing Sludge Wasting and Enhancing Bio-hydrogen Generation from the Activated Sludge Process
Treatment and disposal of bio-hazardous sludge accounts for 50-60% of the operational costs at a wastewater treatment plant. To treat this sludge, it undergoes a process involving thickening, conditioning, and dewatering, followed by transport to a landfill or incinerator. In addition to high costs, landfilling and incineration are detrimental from a sustainability standpoint.

 

In this patented invention, a closed, anaerobic, completely stirred tank side stream reactor is added after the outlet of the settling tank at the wastewater treatment plant. Solids retention time in the reactor is short (< 4 days), keeping its size and cost down. The acidic and anaerobic environment of the reactor causes biomass to deflocculate and sludge to hydrolyze, ultimately reducing sludge by 60%. The invention also has the added benefit of producing hydrogen and methane fuel. 

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Chul Park, Dong Hyun Chon
Category(s): Clean Energy, Environmental, Engineering, Chemicals
Production of Specialty Chemicals with Carbon Dioxide Serving as the Carbon Source
Concerns of resource supply and climate change motivate the shift away from fuels and chemicals derived from fossil fuels towards domestic, sustainable production. The inventors’ patented technology presents a new way of doing this, using microorganisms that are able to take in CO2, water, and electricity and synthesize carbonaceous fuels and chemicals, akin to a reverse microbial fuel cell.

 

In “microbial electrosynthesis,” a term coined by the inventors, an anode and cathode are connected to a source of electrical power and separated by a permeable membrane. Electron-accepting microorganisms are coated on a cathode, where they reduce CO2 to multi-carbon products, while water is oxidized to oxygen at the anode. For example, the production of acetate would proceed as follows:

 

Anode: 4H2O --> 8H+ + 8e- + 2O2

Cathode: 2CO2 + 8H+ + 8e- --> CH3COOH + 2H2O

Overall: 2CO2 + 2H2O --> CH3COOH + 2O2

 

In addition to acetate, production of ethanol, butanol, propanol, formate, and 2-oxobutyrate have been demonstrated.

Published: 12/15/2017   |   Inventor(s): Kelly Nevin Lovley, Derek Lovley
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Environmental
Facile synthesis of tin-containing zeolites
Heteroatom containing zeolite catalysts have shown excellent catalytic activity and thermal stability in petrochemical processes as well as for converting biomass into biofuels and high-value chemicals. However, their synthesis is difficult, requiring harsh chemicals and long synthesis times.

 

This patented technology is several rapid, high-yield synthesis methods for heteroatom containing zeolites, such as Sn-Beta. The method begins with adding zeolite seeds to a solution comprising a heteroatom source and a structure-directing agent. By directly adding the seeds to the solution without calcination or drying, the seeds do not agglomerate and as a result, crystallization time is shortened. To complete catalyst synthesis from the resulting gel, it is then heated to form a solid, filtered, washed, dried, and finally calcined.

 

Specific methods disclosed in this patent include one as short as 2 days and the first fluorine-free synthesis route. The catalysts were demonstrated to be active for both sugar isomerization and dehydration reactions, necessary in fuel and chemical synthesis.

Published: 12/14/2017   |   Inventor(s): Wei Fan, Chun-Chih Chang, Paul Dornath, Zhuopeng Wang
Category(s): Chemicals, Clean Energy, Engineering
Fulleropyrrolidine Interlayers for High Efficiency Perovskite Solar Cells
Interface engineering is critical for achieving efficient solar cells.  This invention provides a significant power conversion efficiency (PCE) improvement of fullerene/perovskite planar heterojunction solar cells from 7.50% to 15.48% by inserting a fulleropyrrolidine interlayer between the metal electrode and the electron transport layer. The interlayer enhances recombination resistance, increases electron extraction rate and prolongs free carrier lifetime.cells.
Published: 8/11/2017   |   Inventor(s): Thomas Russell, Todd Emrick, Yao Liu, Zachariah Page
Category(s): Devices, Physical Science, Material science, Clean Energy
Efficient Thermoelectric Converters
The invention provides thermoelectric devices similar to conventional Peltier-elements based on folded, multi-layered nanomembranes prepared from 2-dimensional (2D) van der Waals materials. These van der Waals materials (e.g. graphene, hexagonal boron nitride, and transition metal dichalcogenides) have both single atomic layers with strong in-plane covalent bonding and weak bonding across atomic mononolayers. When devices are fabricated by folding monolayers onto themselves and into layered structures (figure). In this configuration, the electric path is shorter and the thermal path is suppressed. Moreover, multiple elements can be combined in series and parallel configurations to produce a useful amount of electricity. Thus, these devices can be used to convert waste-heat into electricity and can also serve a thermoelectric cooler. Some information about different applications here.
Published: 3/8/2016   |   Inventor(s): Zlatan Aksamija, Robert Blick
Category(s): Clean Energy, Devices, Devices & sensors, Electronics, Engineering, Material science, Nanotechnology, Physical Science
Polymeric Interlayer Boosts Performance of Organic Solar Cells
This invention provides new polymeric interlayer materials that can greatly enhance the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of organic or polymer solar cells.
Published: 4/28/2015   |   Inventor(s): Todd Emrick, Thomas Russell, Zachariah Page, Yao Liu
Category(s): Material science, Physical Science, Clean Energy
Enhanced hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose into glucose
Selective hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose into glucose is an important chemical reaction for the production of renewable biofuels and platform chemicals from lignocellulosic biomass. However, hydrolysis of cellulose remains a processing challenge. The current methods are not economically feasible compared to petroleum and the enzymatic catalytic pathway utilizes toxic and corrosive acids. In contrast, this novel invention overcomes these limits via a two-step process for the hydrolysis of crystalline cellulose to increase the efficiency of the acid catalyzed hydrolysis reaction. This prevents re-lamination of the glucan chains thus allowing for a rapid production of water-soluble sugar oligomers. A carbon-based catalyst can then rapidly hydrolyze the water-soluble glucan oligomers to 91.2% glucose yield faster than conventional approaches due to enhanced adsorption of glucan oligomers on the carbon surface.
Published: 4/24/2015   |   Inventor(s): Wei Fan, Paul Jakob Dauenhauer, Paul Dornath
Category(s): Chemicals, Environmental, Engineering, Clean Energy
Organic Photovoltaic Devices Based on Water-based Nanoparticle Dispersions
This invention provides organic photovoltaic devices fabricated using an environmentally friendly fabrication process. To fabricate a solar cell that will power a smart phone using conventional fabrication processes would require 150 milliliter of toxic organic solvents such as chlorobenzene or xylene. The new fabrication process of this invention uses water-based nanoparticle dispersions of active layer materials, and improves device power conversion efficiency over other aqueous- dispersion-based processes by optimizing the domain size and structure of the active layer and other device elements.

Published: 4/22/2015   |   Inventor(s): Dhandapani Venkataraman, Monojit Bag, Timothy Gehan, Christie Cutting
Category(s): Devices, Engineering, Nanotechnology, Physical Science, Clean Energy
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