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Joule Unlimited, formerly known as Joule Biotechnologies, is a producer of alternative energy technologies based in Bedford, Massachusetts. The company developed a process to generate hydrocarbon-based fuel by combining non-fresh water, nutrients, cyanobacteria, carbon dioxide, and sunlight. The company planned to break ground in October 2011 on a facility to produce more than 20,000 gallons of fuel per acre per year (19,000 m3/km2·a). Helioculture uses photosynthetic organisms, but is otherwise distinct from the process that makes fuel from algae. Oils made from algae usually have to be refined into fuel following a batch process, but helioculture produces fuel directly - either ethanol or hydrocarbons - that do not need refining. The Helioculture process also does not produce biomass. This process is enabled by the discovery of unique genes coding for enzymatic mechanisms that enable the direct synthesis of both alkane, olefin, ethanol, and other key molecules. Helioculture allows for brackish water or graywater, nonindustrial waste water from sources such as baths and washing machines, to be used, while traditional biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol require fresh water. Joule Unlimited claims that its product will be cost competitive with crude oil at $50 a barrel ($310/m3). The company also states that its product could supply all of the transportation fuel for the United States from an area the size of the Texas panhandle.
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