Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Oak Ridge National Lab spinout develops system to convert food waste into biofuel

By Jesse Schwartz
Published: August 21st, 2019

A spinout from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) aims to commercialize a technology that converts organic waste into renewable biofuel.

Electro-Active Technologies has developed a system known as microbial electrolysis that combines biology and electrochemistry to degrade organic waste, such as plant biomass or food waste, to produce hydrogen.

“There are usually thousands of microbes that are required to convert a complex organic mixture from biomass into electrons,” says Electro-Active co-founder Abhijeet Borole. “We developed an enrichment process to create this [microbial] consortium to efficiently extract electrons from organic materials.”

Borole and co-founder Alex Lewis originally developed the technology at ORNL to address the problems of liquid waste formed during biofuel production, but when they formed Electro-Active the two researchers decided to focus on fighting food waste.

“We waste about 40% of food that is produced in the world today, which generates methane in landfills,” says Borole. “This is also considerable in the context of how much energy and effort is put into the food industry. We can deliver a zero-emission fuel that reduces transportation emissions while also using food waste to make the hydrogen.”

Electro-Active has been accepted into the H2 Refuel Accelerator, a start-up incubator sponsored by Shell, Toyota and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

“All these companies and agencies are interested in advancing the hydrogen economy because it’s seen as one of the leading developments of the 21st century — to be able to act on climate change,” says Borole.

Source: Newswise

Posted under: Tech Transfer e-News

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