John Sofranko’s idea, backed by decades of experience, sounds like a slam dunk. He founded Bio2electric, based at the Sarnoff Center, to convert errant polluting natural gas — the stuff flaring up from offshore oil platforms or seeping from landfills — into gasoline that could power any car.
After an arduous application process, his start-up was recently awarded a $600,000 Department of Energy contract to fund early research. Chances of success? “Five percent,” says Sofranko cheerfully enough. “Well, before the contract, I would have said 5 percent. Now it’s more like 10 percent. But in a year, when the contract ends, it could be more like 25 to 30 percent.” A second, much larger, contract could follow the first, and chances of success would rise substantially.