SeaSTAR: Selective Thalassic Ambulatory Retriever

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Exploratory Topics
San Francisco, California
Project Term:
04/01/2020 - 12/31/2021

Critical Need:

This topic seeks to support entrepreneurial energy discoveries, by identifying and supporting disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies within small businesses and collaborations with universities and national labs. These projects have the potential for large-scale impact, and if successful could create new paradigms in energy technology with the potential to achieve significant reductions in U.S. energy consumption, energy-related imports, or energy-related emissions. These specific projects address technology areas across ARPA-E’s mission spaces, with particular focus on: Advanced bioreactors; Approaches and tools to create enhanced geothermal systems; Non-evaporative dehydration and drying technologies; Approaches to significantly enhance the rate and/or potential scale of carbon mineralization; Separation of CO2 from ambient air (direct air capture); High-rate separation of dissolved inorganic carbon from the ocean to produce a CO2 stream; Advanced trees and other engineered biological systems for carbon sequestration; Innovative deep ocean collector designs for mining polymetallic nodules; Environmental sensors capable of operation in deep ocean environments for mining polymetallic nodules; and Non-carbothermic smelting technologies. Awards under this topic are working to support research and establish potential new areas for technology development, while providing ARPA-E with information that could lead to new focused funding programs. The focus of these projects is to support exploratory research to establish viability, proof-of-concept demonstration for new energy technology, and/or modeling and simulation efforts to guide development for new energy technologies.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The abyssal plain contains concentrated deposits of polymetallic nodules (critical minerals), an untapped resource of relevant minerals. Current prototype polymetallic nodule collectors propose to function as indiscriminate vacuums, strip-mining the sea floor and transporting everything to the surface to be filtered, with significant ecological and economic costs. Otherlab proposes to develop the “SeaSTAR” nodule collector, a large platform attached to a vacuum funnel ringed by robot arms. The arms would walk the collector across the abyssal plain while selectively picking up nodules and depositing them into a vacuum for transport to the surface. This selectivity will reduce the environmental impact and cost of deep-sea mining operations.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Douglas Wicks
Project Contact:
Conor O'Brien
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:

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