Biofuels Digest, "Power of the Sun for Syngas or Methanol"

Excerpt from "Biofuel Production with the Sun, the Sea and Thermochemical Reactions"

By Dr. Marcius Extavour Senior Director, Energy & Resources, XPRIZE
Special to The Digest

A third scalable approach harnesses the power of the sun and the abundant greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, for the production of energy. Dimensional Energy’s founding team includes professor David Erickson, who in 2014 designed and patented novel waveguides for the production of biofuels in partnership with the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). ARPA-E advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. While this approach improved algal productivity, the technology was not commercialized.

Jump to 2016 — during Cohort 3 of NEXUS-NY, a NYSERDA funded clean energy accelerator, Jason Salfi and Clayton Poppe formed Dimensional Energy to address the challenge from the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE. They soon partnered with Erickson and Tobias Hanrath who proposed combining two lines of work: the waveguide with catalysts that his lab was working on for photocatalysis.

The result? The team has gone on to invent a reactor platform technology which they call HI-LIGHT. Focusing more on photocatalysis at this stage, the reactor platform has the ability to select for two main outputs, syngas or methanol. As both an XPRIZE semifinalist and NSF-supported company, Dimensional Energy is collocating their HI-LIGHT reactor at the Cornell CHP Plant in Ithaca, N.Y., to convert CO2 emissions onsite.

Salfi has said that his focus has been on commercial solutions to solve the world’s most pressing problems, and the founding of Dimensional Energy and competing in the NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE is an extension of that lifetime mission. “With the Hi-LIGHT reactor we’ve previously demonstrated several multiples of increased growth rates for algae used in bio-fuels,” Salfi explained. “We are using the same technology here to increase light delivery to solid state catalysts, improving the overall efficiency of the reactor.”