Last week The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $151 million in funding is being awarded through the Department's recently-formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ("ARPA-E"). for 37 energy research projects -- including some that could allow intermittent energy sources like wind and solar to provide a steady flow of power, or use bacteria to produce automotive fuel from sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. ARPA-E's mission "is to develop nimble, creative and inventive approaches to transform the global energy landscape while advancing America's technology leadership," according to a DOE release. This is the first round of projects funded under ARPA-E, which is receiving a total of $400 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Projects include:

  • Converting waste heat from autos into electricity to reduce fuel consumption.
  • The wave disc engine, a gas-fueled electric generator that is five times more efficient than traditional engines for electricity production, as well as lighter and cheaper to manufacture. Could replace current generators for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.
  • "Blown Wing" technology for wind turbines. Creates a virtual airfoil by jetting compressed air along a wing.
  • A silicon-coated carbon nanofiber paper for the anode of next generation Lithium-ion batteries.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor quotes sources about the projects that range from "pie in the sky mad science" to "so crazy it just might work."