Joule Biotechnologies

Joule Biotechnologies, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a novel and more efficient technology to produce either ethanol or diesel, using the sun, recycled water and their patented photosynthetic organisms. These organisms, mixed with solar energy and CO2, produce the desired biofuels in a game changing, highly productive manner. The firm refers to the end product as “SolarFuels”- not biofuels.

Product: Unlike existing approaches to producing renewable fuel, Joule’s process achieves a high net energy balance while avoiding the harmful depletion of arable land, fresh water or crops. This is made possible by the company’s technology which leverages solar energy and genome-engineered organisms to convert waste CO2 directly into multiple solar fuels and chemicals. The continuous production process requires no biomass intermediates, removing resource limitations and costly processing from the equation. This process can use recycled wastewater.

Joule has successfully achieved the production of both ethanol and diesel at lab scale, with the former already reaching productivity rates exceeding 6,000 gallons/acre/year. At full-scale production, via future commercial sites, the company estimates the potential to deliver 25,000 gallons/acre/year of ethanol and 15,000 gallons/acre/year of diesel. Cellulosic ethanol typically produces 2,000 gallons/acre/year- therefore you can easily see the level of technological advancement possible!

This process avoids the depletion of precious natural resources, with no dependency on agricultural land, crops or fresh water. Joule expects to deliver ethanol and diesel at the energy equivalent of as little as $50 and $40 per barrel respectively.

Competition: Solazyme, Poet, Amyris, BP Biofuels, Coskata, Sapphire Energy, LS9 and many more.

Funding: Flagship Ventures founded and funded this company in 2007 which was under stealth mode until August 2009.

Management: William Sims, President & CEO: While his career is that of a proven leader of start up firms- much of this experience involved electronic technology plays such as Color Kinetics, Zenith, JVC and e-SIM. While at Color Kinetics he did help the firm grow 30% annually, IPO and sale to Phillips for $800MM in 2007. He does have an educational background however in Biological Sciences from Cal State Fullerton.

Recent News: Today announced the signing of a lease agreement to build its first pilot plant in Leander, Texas, where the company will further develop and test its transformative system for the production of renewable solar fuels. The plant will be operational within the first half of 2010.

Comment: As noted in the product section, Joule presents the possibility of a game changing biofuels technology that can use recycled water and improve productivity by a factor of about 10. (Much like EEStor teases people with for batteries!) We bring this firm to our readers’ attention as it is likely to garner much focus from investors and enthusiasts in the next few years while moving forward through both funding rounds and technology tests. Oh yes, and the technology needs to work economically for all of this to matter!