Tusaar to receive grant to advance geothermal-energy process

LAFAYETTE – Clean-tech startup Tusaar Corp. is one of 32 companies and projects chosen recently to receive a total of up to $18 million in grants for advancing geothermal energy development.

Lafayette-based Tusaar – which is developing an organic compound that can be used extract rare earth metals from waste streams – could receive up to $500,000 pending final approval. The Department of Energy announced the grant recipients last week.

The grants will support projects in three different areas, including low-temperature mineral recovery, the area in which Tusaar’s technology fits in.

The idea is to take geothermal brine – hot underground water brought to the surface to make electricity – and extract from it rare earth metals to create a second revenue stream for geothermal electricity plants that would help increase their economic viability.

Tusaar’s project specifically will develop artificial brines in the company’s lab that mimic the geothermal brines. The company’s organic compound will then be tested to evaluate its ability to recover the rare earth metals from the brine.

The award is to last 18 months, after which Tusaar will submit a detailed economic analysis justifying the use of the technology in support of geothermal power generation.

Tusaar founder Gautam Khanna said Monday that the project is essentially to show proof of concept. But it could have major implications for his company, which is still primarily in the pre-revenue stage of research and development of its product.

“Number one, it’s recognition of the capability of the technology,” Khanna said Monday. “Number two, it’s very useful seed money to create an application like this that we as a startup ourselves would never be able to fund.”

Founded in 2009 around a patent licensed from the University of Colorado, Tusaar has five employees.

The company is working on raising private capital and building out a manufacturing facility where it can produce its compound in larger quantities than the lab.

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