Military to Fly on Cellulosic Fuel

John Davis

darpa_logoAmerican fighter jets, bombers and cargo planes might soon be displaying a green jet stream… at least metaphorically.

Greentech Media reports that the the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has already let a $19.6 million contract to Logos Technologies to come up with a way to make JP-8… the military’s all-around fuel primarily used as a replacement to diesel… out of cellulose. And if it is successful, the contracts could grow for Logos and other defense companies and universities:

Arlington, Va.-based Logos could see its DARPA cash flow grow to $35 million if “all phases of the development program are complete,” the company’s press release stated. The company has 21 partners on the project, including universities and companies…

Of course, jet fuel also needs to perform at the cold temperatures found high in the sky without starting to freeze or gum up, making it a particular challenge for biofuel makers.

DARPA, for its part, is looking for jet fuel that costs less than $3 per gallon, made with processes that eventually should be able to convert half the energy content of cellulosic materials into fuel energy, according to this June information paper on its biofuels program.

Many feedstocks are being considered. San Diego-based Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) won a similar research contract from DARPA in January, one with the potential to grow to $25 million, aimed at finding ways to turn “agricultural and aquacultural feedstocks.”

Aquaculture translates into algae-biodiesel… something civilian airlines have also been working on. Officials say they just need to make the production of algae oil as a feedstock more cost effective to meet that DARPA $3-a-gallon-and-below goal.