Spero Energy wins DOE grant for its lignin catalysis technology

By Purdue Research Park | June 20, 2014

A Purdue Research Park-based company whose one-step, patent-pending technology could improve the efficiency of alternative fuel production has received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Spero Energy Inc. has received a nine-month SBIR Phase I grant from the Department of Energy worth $149,882. Its technology is based on Purdue University intellectual property developed under the DOE-funded Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Fuels.

Basudeb Saha, chief technology officer, said Spero Energy's technology could benefit firms that produce cellulosic ethanol.

"Our novel, single-step catalytic process converts the lignin in wood biomass, which inhibits the production of cellulosic ethanol, into two products: lignin-free material that is ready for ethanol production, and dihydroeugenol, which is a valuable chemical," he said. "The SBIR Phase I grant will allow the company to perform critical research on catalyst recycling, test its products in different markets and carry out economic analysis."

Saha credits the DOE for initiating a program that is designed to transform the nation's biomass resources into biofuels and high-performance chemicals.

"Spero Energy's technology, which makes high-value petroleum products from lignin and lignin-free cellulose, could play a significant role in this objective," he said. "These products are expected to provide an entry into the larger renewable commodity chemicals and transportation biofuels market space."

Spero Energy won the 2014 Midwest Clean Energy Challenge Aviation Biofuel Prize in April, sponsored by Boeing, United Airlines and UOP Honeywell. The company has received guidance from Purdue Foundry and Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.