The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has given San Diego-based Science Applications International Corporation a contract to develop an algae-based alternative to petroleum-based jet fuel.
The contract could be worth as much as $25 million if all targets are reached. SAIC says there will be two phases to the project. The first will involve refining the technology and developing lab-scale production capabilities. The second phase will involve the construction of what SAIC calls a “pre-pilot scale” production facility.
SAIC will do the work at company facilities in Georgia, Florida, Hawaii and Texas. The company will work with a team of industrial and academic partners, and look to produce an algae-based fuel for about $3 per gallon.
DARPA is looking to reduce the military’s dependence on traditional forms of fuel, which makes sense from both an economic and strategic standpoint. While it remains to be seen if farmed algae provides an answer to the military’s energy needs, the production of algae-based fuels is getting a long look from businesses and scientists. PetroSun opened the first algae to biofuel facility in the U.S. last April. Such operations don’t require the crop land that corn or switchgrass use, and can produce as much as 100 times more energy per acre than crop-based biofuels.
It will be worth keeping an eye on all of these activities as they come to full bloom.
Photo credit: jurvetson on Flickr, via a Creative Commons License.
Dave has over a decade of experience in journalism covering a wide variety of topics. He spent 7 years on the business beat for the Rochester (N.Y) Democrat and Chronicle, covering technology issues including the state's growing green economy. When he's not writing, you'll find Dave enjoying his family, being a bit of a music snob, and praying that the Notre Dame football team can get its act together. He lives in Rochester.