Vice President Cites Private Sector Backing for ARPA-E Awardees

August 31, 2011

Vice President Biden announced on August 30 that five companies receiving a total of $15.5 million from DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) have now attracted more than $100 million in private capital investment. ARPA-E allocated between $1.5 million and $6 million to each of the firms to support their work on advanced grid scale batteries, innovative new approaches to biofuels, or waste heat recovery. In February, DOE Secretary Chu reported that six other ARPA-E firms had collectively crossed the $100 million investment threshold after garnering $23.6 million in ARPA-E seed funding. The financing reflects the progress the companies have made over the past two years toward developing new technologies that could transform U.S. energy production and use.

The companies Biden cited are OPX Biotechnologies of Boulder, Colorado, whose researchers—in combination with bacteria experts from DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory—are creating bacteria to produce a liquid biofuel using electricity and carbon dioxide; Phononic Devices of Raleigh, North Carolina, which is designing thermoelectric devices to capture wasted heat produced by factories, power plants, and vehicles, and then convert it directly into usable electric; Primus Power of Hayward, California, which has developed a flow battery using high energy fluids pumped throughout the battery to store renewable energy from sources such as wind and solar power; Stanford University in California, where Professor Fritz Prinz is commercializing a new type of energy storage device that will perform many of the same jobs as a normal battery does but hold more charges; and Transphorm of Goleta, California, which is pursuing compact and efficient semiconductor devices that can quickly switch electrical currents, thereby reducing wasted power from electric motors.

ARPA-E will be making its next round of awards in September, including support for a series of innovative projects to keep U.S. manufacturers competitive by reducing the need for expensive rare earth materials from China. Rare earths are naturally occurring minerals with unique magnetic properties that are used for many clean-energy technologies such as electric vehicles and wind turbines. Up to $30 million will be made available for this program area, in addition to funding for projects in advanced biofuels, thermal storage, grid control technologies and solar power. See the ARPA-E press release and the ARPA-E website.