Joules Unlimited has developed proprietary Helioculture process to produce fuels such as ethanol and other infrastructure compatible hydrocarbon-based fuels through photosynthetically active genetically highly modified organisms. It operates from Bedford, Massachusetts, USA and from The Hague, Netherlands. The company’s production operation is in Hobbs, New Mexico.
The Helioculture Process of Joules Unlimited for CO2-to-fuel Production
Joules unlimited’s process known as ‘Helioculture’ uses proprietary organisms that are genetically modified in such a way that they act as catalyst in the presence of sunlight to directly synthesize specific molecules of alkanes, olefins and ethanol using brackish water, nutrients and carbon dioxide.
The process of fuel synthesis takes place in SolarConverter® array. It resembles solar panel, captures sunlight and contains all the necessary ingredients for fuel synthesis. Waste CO2 is supplied from CO2 emitting industry. It keeps the organisms in motion and maximizes their sunlight exposure time and thereby the rate of the photosynthesis. Under these conditions the CO2 gets consumed by organisms that in turn continuously produce and secrete the fuel into the liquid medium. After a few separation steps the fuel is stored.
The modules of the SolarConverter® array where the process occurs are flushed and reinoculated after weeks of continuous run. As per the information available in the company’s website the process is different from a typical algae based oil production process as the Helioculture process produces fuels with no biomass production and with no further requirement for refining.
The first commercial products of Joules Unlimited will be solar ethanol and solar diesel known as ‘Joule Sunflow®-E’ and Joule Sunflow®-D. Joule Unlimited targets 25,000 US gallons of solar ethanol or 15,000 US gallons of solar diesel per acre annually, for approximately $1.20/US gallon ($50/barrel).