Brit Liggett

Ground Broken on a Test Pilot Plant for Fuel Sweating Organisms

by , 05/05/10

biofuel, fuel, diesel, biodiesel, fuel sweating plants, joule, unlimited, alternative energy, clean fuel, alternative fuel

A Massachusetts company is moving forward on a test pilot facility for fuel sweating plant production — yes, that’s right these plants sweat diesel. They’ve created gene altered single cell plants that take sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn them directly into biofuel. It is kind of like fuel from algae without the extraction step. The plants’ byproduct is basically vehicle ready, which cuts down significantly on processing costs. Joule Unlimited says their fuel will be a clean, cost effective alternative to petroleum. Now all they have to do is prove their lab tested technology in the real world and we’ll be on the road to running on sweat.

biofuel, fuel, diesel, biodiesel, fuel sweating plants, joule, unlimited, alternative energy, clean fuel, alternative fuel

The perspiring plants live in a panel that looks like a green solar panel, and are placed on the ground at an angle to maximize their exposure to the sun. The organisms are laid in a layer underneath a glass panel in a mixture of carbon dioxide infused water which serves as their grub. They sunbathe, eat and then sweat usable diesel — what a life! Apparently unlike algae which needs to be compressed to extract fuel these single cell plants aren’t single use. They can sweat fuel and live to sweat another day for eight weeks straight. The fuel only needs to be separated from the water mixture post sweat lodge to be used.

Joule Unlimited is breaking ground on their test pilot facility 30 miles north of Austin in Leander, Texas. They chose the spot for it’s low risk of freezing temperatures and high amount of sunlight. The move from the lab will help scientists at Joule understand the organisms’ reactions to the unpredictability of the natural world — including fluctuations in sunlight and temperature. Sounds like a promising technology to us. Reusable sweat secreting plants that eat carbon dioxide and sunlight and directly produce biofuels for use as an alternative for oil? Sign us up!

+ Joule Unlimited

Via The New York Times Green Blog

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4 Comments

  1. yoyodyn May 6, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    Wind leeches power from the earth as well. We have yet to do real studies in how windmills affect weather patterns because of the loss of energy in the environment. Don\’t get me wrong, I am all for more wind power. But it seems these plants may be a better bet since any nutrients they use would be recycled when they die. What goes into the fuel would be mostly carbon and hydrogen, from the CO2 and H2O.

  2. Troll May 6, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    Where are they getting the CO2 from to feed them? Wouldn’t it get released back into the atmosphere after combustion in an engine?

  3. Benjamin Graff May 6, 2010 at 11:13 am

    @johnsonlevi No energy is clean – period. Solar and wind power require heavy metals to be extracted from the ground for battery storage. The energy from a coal-fired plant is effectively stored in the coal, whereas wind and solar energy is currently stored in heavy-metal batteries. Even if we used that energy to crack water for hydrogen (at a great cost to efficiency), to convert it back to electricity we would still require combustion or heavy (or exotic) metals in a fuel-cell catalyst.

    So you see, it’s not really that simple. I personally hope this solution pans out because it doesn’t need to introduce sequestered carbon into they system.

    Oh, and these organisms aren’t plants, and the company developing the process, Joule Unlimited, claims nothing but water and CO2 are required.

  4. johnsonlevi May 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    What you may have failed to miss is that plants require nutrients from the soil, and so we would essentially still be leeching power from our earth. Let’s put some more development into solar and wind power, real clean energy, and abandon combustion entirely.

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