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ARPA-E Hands Out $130M For Cutting-Edge Energy Tech

It’s the rare clean-leaning energy program in Washington that enjoys something approximating bipartisan support, and now ARPA-E has handed out a new round of grants in the hope of seeding “transformational, breakthrough technologies.”

The U.S. Department of Energy, which oversees the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program, had put out a funding announcement in March, and on Wednesday it said thousands of concept papers were whittled down to hundreds of applications before it selected 66 recipients for a total of $130 million.

arpa-e 2012 open funding

Makani Power, developer of an airborne wind turbine concept, was a 2009 APRA-E open funding award recipient. (image via Makani Power).

“The 66 projects selected today represent the true mission of ARPA-E: swinging for the fences and trying to hit home runs to support development of the most innovative technologies and change what’s possible for America’s energy future,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.

ARPA-E did a similar opening funding round back in 2009, when stimulus money provided the initial cash for the program, which was hatched under the Bush administration. Several rounds of more targeted funding have also gone out during the Obama administration, as the administration has convinced Republicans – or enough of them, anyway – to resist slashing the program out of existence during the hard-fought budget battles of the last few years. The new grants bring total ARPA-E awards to $770 million.

The DOE said the programs backed in the 2009 open funding “have already made significant progress,” citing demonstration of “the world’s first 400 Wh/kg lithium-ion battery poised to revolutionize the electric vehicle industry; building a wind turbine, inspired by the design of jet engines, that could deliver 300 percent more power than existing turbines of the same size and cost; and engineering a high power laser drilling system that can penetrate hard rock formations over long distances and is ten times more economical than conventional drilling technologies.”

The 66 newly funded projects are scattered over 24 states, the DOE said, with about half (47 percent) led by universities, and small business (29 percent), big businesses (15 percent), national labs (7.5 percent) and nonprofits (1.5 percent) comprising the other half of projects.

For the full list of new award recipients, see this Department of Energy PDF.

Nino Marchetti's picture

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Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Nov 29, 2012

The linked pdf of awards reads like a Biophysics journal abstract. Lots of interesting fuels development approaches. Even an MIT "photocatalysis" ($3M) fuels project in the Carbon Capture grouping.

Real science coming out of hiding. Funny how a big world of competent scientists, in an urgently competitive field, finally moved beyond the politically correct in the US.

Thanks for the link.

Paul O's picture
Paul O on Nov 30, 2012

With the exception of Transportation Related New Technology (batteries included), any pretense at providing for our Energy Future, without due emphasis on safe advanced Nuclear Fission that can convert current waste to Hundreds/Thousands of years of reliable safe power, is merely posturing to impress the politically correct opponents of Nuclear Energy, and it just doesn't impress me at all.

Jessie Henshaw's picture
Jessie Henshaw on Nov 30, 2012

The "fly in the ointment" here is that the behavior of a growth economy makes it clear that this solution, finding ways to extend and expand energy resources, makes the underlying demand problem worse.

Every added amount of energy provided to a growth economy makes the rate of increasing demand for energy higher.    The physics is really clear why that is, too.   Providing supply doesn't relive demand but stimulates it.

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