Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Prometheus Fuels licenses renewable jet fuel technology from ORNL


By Jesse Schwartz
Published: September 23rd, 2020

The start-up Prometheus Fuels has licensed a technology from the Department of Energy (DOE)’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) that could make it more cost-effective to produce renewable jet fuel.

Prometheus Fuels aims to use the novel ORNL technology to more cost-effectively convert biomass to net-zero carbon gasoline and jet fuel. According to the start-up’s founder Rob McGinnis, “ORNL’s technology is important to ensuring our fuel meets international standards.”

The technology simplifies the often costly process of converting biomass-derived ethanol into jet fuel. Inventor and ORNL researcher Zhenglong Li developed a catalyst material that can directly convert ethanol into butane-rich mixed olefins that can be readily processed into jet fuels.

“This technology bypasses an energy-intensive ethanol dehydration step and achieves highly selective formation of butene-rich olefins in one step, where a two-step process is usually adopted in the industry,” says Li. “Our reaction does not require significant energy input; instead it releases some energy that can be utilized for other parts of the process. High selectivity of the mixed olefins formation also enables high jet fuel yield. This process offers an opportunity for industry to reduce operation and capital costs associated with renewable jet fuel production.”

Prometheus has drawn interest from Y Combinator, BMW i Ventures, Boom Supersonic and other major industry players. In a flight planned for 2021, Boom will use the start-up’s jet fuel to test the design of its supersonic commercial jet. The licensing deal was negotiated by ORNL’s Technology Transfer Office.

Source: Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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