The US Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding $106m in funding for 37 research projects that could produce advanced biofuels more efficiently from renewable electricity instead of sunlight; design new types of batteries for EVs; and remove the carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants in a more cost-effective way.

The grant is provided through DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program. The grants will go to projects in 17 states. Of the lead recipients, 24% are small businesses, 57% are educational institutions, 11% are national labs, and 8% are large corporations.

The awards are part of an overall $100bn investment the Recovery Act is making in creating jobs and driving economic growth through advanced science and technology.

The fund will be used on a project to develop electrofuels. Current technologies for making biofuels all rely on photosynthesis – either indirectly by converting plants to fuels or directly by harnessing photosynthetic organisms such as algae.

This process is less than 1% efficient at converting sunlight to stored chemical energy. Instead, Electrofuels approaches will use organisms to extract energy from other sources, such as solar-derived electricity or hydrogen or earth-abundant metal ions. Theoretically, such an approach could be more than 10 times more efficient than current biomass approaches, DOE said.

The ARPA-E program also seeks to develop a high energy density, low-cost battery technologies for long range plug-in hybrid and EVs.

In addition, this program aims to support new technologies to capture carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants using a range of approaches, including solvents, sorbents, catalysts, enzymes, membranes, and gas-liquid-solid phase changes.