Joule Patents Organism That Makes Jet A?

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Joule Unlimited, a U.S. biotech company, has earned a patent for a "proprietary organism" that it says takes in carbon dioxide, sunshine and (dirty, salt, or clear) water, and puts out liquid hydrocarbons. The four-year-old Massachusetts-based company describes its organism as a genetically engineered cyanobacterium that will deliver "fossil fuels on demand" in "virtually unlimited quantities." It claims the organism's process mimics photosynthesis in producing diesel fuel, and is 50 times more efficient than current biofuel production methods. Claims aside, the company has attracted former White House Chief of Staff John Podesta to its board of directors and lists George Church, who helped pioneer the sequencing of the human genome, on its scientific advisory board. Of course, that doesn't prove that the process actually works.

As for performance, what Joule CEO Bill Sims has said is that, "Sometime soon, what we are doing will become clear." And, for now, the company offers a "frequently asked questions" page on its website. Joule's process relies in part a "solar converter" system outside of which its proprietary organism cannot survive. In Joule's own wording, "The SolarConverter system houses a circulating medium, comprised of proprietary organisms, brackish water and micro nutrients, and facilitates CO2 conversion to fuels and chemicals in a direct, continuous process." Importantly, Joule's system claims no need for a biomass like corn or camelina. The company says the system's efficiency could lead to commercially available diesel fuel at the equivalent of $30 per barrel. Joule says its pilot programs are currently under way.