NextCat Inc., a Detroit-based company, announced that it has secured a license agreement for advanced biofuel catalyst technology developed at the National Biofuels Energy Lab at Wayne State University.

The license agreement will allow NextCAT to commercialize a class of catalysts that enable biodiesel producers to use cost-effective raw materials such as waste vegetable oil, animal fats and residual corn oil, and convert them into biodiesel.

This technology offers a process solution for an industry that has been mostly idled in the United States since 2008, when rising feedstock prices rendered the production of biodiesel uneconomical. With a cost savings of at least $1 per gallon over traditional diesel fuel, the NextCAT solution greatly changes the economics of a biodiesel plant.

NextCAT recently secured seed funding from Automation Alley to begin the design, build and installation of a reactor at an idle biodiesel plant in Michigan. With this investment, along with other investments and grant funding, including awards from the National Science Foundation, NextCAT has received more than $800,000 to bring this technology to market.

In addition to the cost and energy savings associated with biodiesel fuel, there are several advantages that make it a smart choice to manufacture and use. Biodiesel is nontoxic and biodegradable and therefore is environmentally safe. Advanced biofuels, in general, are produced domestically, thus lessening dependence on foreign oil. Also, producing advanced biofuels can stimulate the local economy through job creation in farming, transportation and production.

The science team at NextCAT includes Steven Salley, associate professor of chemical engineering at Wayne State’s College of Engineering, Shuli Yan, research director at NextCAT, and Simon Ng, CTO at NextCAT, and interim associate dean for research in Wayne State’s College of Engineering and the technology’s co-inventor. Ng said the team “look(s) forward to a successful production demonstration later this year.”

Added Hilary Ratner, vice president for research at Wayne State: “The NextCAT technology offers an exciting alternative to the current biodiesel fuel production process. With this license agreement in place, NextCAT can now take the technology to the next level and ultimately make a major impact on our environment as well as our economy.”

NextCAT is a startup company located at TechTown, the Wayne State  research and technology park in Detroit. It was founded in 2009.

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  1. Paul Seehaver says:

    This looks like a veryexicting opportunity for Biofuels and Detroit.
    Good job Wayne State also.

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