A UW-led research group may soon play a major role in reducing U.S. dependency on foreign oil and greenhouse gases, thanks to a $4 million award in early January from a government research agency called the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).
The group is composed of four partners and several UW graduate and undergraduate students, working on a project to develop a genetically-modified microbe that will transform methane, the main component in natural gas, into liquid fuel for transportation.
Mary Lidstrom, a UW professor in engineering and microbiology who is the lead investigator in the group’s research, said the project aims to take advantage of natural gas which is currently plentiful in the United States, but often goes to waste when quantities are small.
“The target that we have for the natural gas sources are those that aren’t large enough to be piped into a pipeline,” Lidstrom said. “So rather than waste that whole source of energy, what we’re proposing to do is develop an engineered process that will be able to take advantage of those small sources.”
The idea for this research came about three years ago. Before being accepted by ARPA-E, the group tried several times to receive funding from other sources. The UW award was one of 66 funding opportunities offered by ARPA-E, and the group was chosen from more than 4,000 applicants.