One of the start-ups in Cohort 3 of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) “Innovation Crossroads” program has exclusively licensed two biorefinery technologies invented and patented by the company’s Co-Founders.
Electro-Active Technologies Inc. was launched by Abhijeet Borole, who spent more than 20 years at ORNL, and Alex Lewis who, as a doctoral candidate in Energy Science and Engineering through the University of Tennessee’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, conducted his research under the mentorship of Borole.
The technologies that the start-up licensed work as a system that converts organic waste into renewable hydrogen gas for use as a biofuel. The system combines biology and electrochemistry to degrade organic waste such as plant biomass or food waste to produce hydrogen. During the microbial electrolysis process, a diverse microbial community first breaks down organic material.
“There are usually thousands of microbes that are required to convert a complex organic mixture from biomass into electrons,” said Borole. “We developed an enrichment process to create this [microbial] consortium to efficiently extract electrons from organic materials.”
An electrolysis method they designed then combines the protons and electrons into hydrogen molecules. Although Borole and Lewis originally developed both processes to address the problems of liquid waste formed during biofuel production, Electro-Active Technologies will focus on fighting food waste.
The technology was jointly patented by ORNL and the University of Tennessee Research Foundation (UTRF). Pictured below are Lewis (seated in middle) and Borole (standing in tie behind him) along with representatives from ORNL and UTRF. You can also click here to read our recent article about Electro-Active Technologies.