NextCAT gets NSF award to help commercialize catalyst technology

By Bryan Sims | August 30, 2011

Detroit-based startup biodiesel technology developer NextCAT Inc. has received $498,830 in funding from a National Science Foundation Phase II Small Business Innovation Research award. The funding will help commercialize alternative biodiesel catalyst technology, developed at the National Biofuels Energy Laboratory at Wayne State University, for integration into existing biodiesel plants.

Specifically, the latest funding, which brings NextCAT’s total grant funding to $1.3 million, will help the company achieve its goal of commercializing a class of heterogeneous solid metal oxide catalysts  that are capable of performing esterification and transesterification steps simultaneously in a single pass without consuming the catalyst in the reaction. 

What makes its catalyst technology unique, according to the company, is that it will offer existing biodiesel producers frontend feedstock flexibility so they can take in high FFA material, like yellow grease or residual corn oil, for conversion to biodiesel. According to NextCAT, the technology offers a unique process solution for producers looking to rebound after a tumultuous year in 2010. 

“This is very exciting news,” said Simon Ng, chief technology officer and interim associate dean for research at WSU’s college of engineering. Along with Ng, NextCAT’s team includes Steven Salley, professor of chemical engineering at WSU and Research Director Shuli Yan.

“The new funding will allow NextCAT to demonstrate our novel catalyst technology in an industrial facility, getting it one step closer to commercialization,” Ng said. “It’s satisfying to see academic research translated to industrial applications and contributing to energy sustainability and security.”

In addition to its National Science Foundation funding, NextCAT also secured previous seed funding from Automation Alley and the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund to design, build and install a pilot reactor at a biodiesel equipment manufacturer’s engineering center.


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