DOE’s ARPA-E awards $35 million to 15 biofuel projects

On May 14, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $35 million in funding that will help slash carbon emissions and scale up the volume and efficiency of renewable biofuel. The 15 awarded research projects, housed at colleges, universities, and labs across nine states, will advance new technologies to decarbonize biorefining processes used across the energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors.

The awards are supported by DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s (ARPA-E) “Energy and Carbon Optimized Synthesis for the Bioeconomy” (ECOSynBio) program.

“Biofuel is a powerful tool in the clean energy toolkit that has immense potential to power our ships and airlines with zero carbon emissions. DOE is investing in research to reduce emissions and maximize the availability of efficient biofuel as we strive to reach President Biden’s net-zero carbon goals.”

Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm

Biofuels, which include ethanol, biodiesel and other products derived from organic material (biomass), is almost exclusively produced through a conversion process called fermentation. These fermentation processes create carbon as a byproduct, with some processes wasting more than 1/3 of this carbon as CO2 emissions. As a result, there is a critical need to create new pathways for biofuel conversion that reduce carbon waste, prevent the loss of CO2 emissions maximize the amount of renewable fuel a conversion process yields.

The 15 teams will work to optimize biofuel manufacturing through:

  • carbon optimized fermentation strains that avoid CO2 waste;
  • engineered organisms that can use a mix of difference sources of energy and carbon, and avoid evolving CO2;
  • biomass-derived sugar or carbon oxide gas fermentation with internal CO2 recycling;
  • cell-free carbon optimized biocatalytic biomass conversion and/or CO2 use; and
  • cross-cutting carbon-optimized bioconversion methods that have the potential for high-impact emissions reductions.

The awardees are:

  • INvizyne Technologies, Inc. (Monrovia, CA)
  • LanzaTech, Inc. (Skokie, IL)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, CO)
  • Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
  • Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
  • The Wyss Institute at Harvard University (Boston, MA)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (Madison, WI)
  • University of Delaware (Newark, DE)
  • University of California, Davis (Davis, CA)
  • University of California, Irvine (Irvine, CA)
  • University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
  • University of Washington (Seattle, WA)
  • ZymoChem, Inc. (San Francisco, CA)* Two awards

Read more about the funded projects on the ARPA-E website

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