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Carbon-Optimized Bioconversion

Carbon is a primary component of many materials and most fuels, and as such it is the backbone of the modern global economy. However the global economy’s fundamental reliance on fossil-carbon-based products presents challenges to sustainability, resource management, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. The bioeconomy refers to the global industrial transition to sustainably utilizing renewable biomass (aquatic and terrestrial) resources in energy, intermediate, and final products for economic, environmental, social, and national security benefits.  Systems to enable industrial-scale synthesis of renewable-carbon-based fuels, chemicals, and materials are critical for realizing a robust and sustainable bioeconomy. 

Addressing natural resource constraints and environmental challenges will require new innovations in bioconversion and bioprocessing that will enable optimized biomass feedstock and energy utilization as well as GHG emissions mitigation.  The rapid deployment of renewable power such as wind and solar is driving down both the cost and carbon intensity of electricity, and is creating an opportunity to design new biorefining strategies that take advantage of low-carbon power to improve the efficiency of biomass conversion (e.g. accommodating external reducing equivalents made available from the strategic use low-carbon power). Biomass conversion strategies that enable optimal carbon flux to products will maximize resource inputs, minimize biomass land use requirements, and mitigate lifecycle GHGs simultaneously.

ARPA-E seeks information regarding promising pathways toward improving the carbon-conversion efficiency of renewable feedstocks to products. This workshop will explore opportunities to reduce the lifecycle carbon emissions from biofuel and bioproduct pathways through highly efficient directed flux of biomass carbon into products with minimal carbon loss as CO2. Workshop participants will explore how inexpensive clean power can enable novel bioprocess designs that limit or completely avoid carbon loss during biomass conversion.

Workshop presentations will cover:

  • Anticipated changes to the grid
  • Engineering carbon-efficient metabolism
  • Optimizing carbon flux in cell-free biomass conversion platforms
  • Biological carbon dioxide utilization
  • Technology deployment and adoption for large-scale bioprocessing

The workshop will include breakout sessions to brainstorm potential solutions and what types of research efforts (e.g. what technical breakthroughs/development and system modeling) are warranted at this time. The workshop will also consider related topics, such as enabling greater cellulosic biomass conversion, relevant intermediate chemicals to target for synthesis, and the broader evolution of the advanced bioeconomy.

The meeting's output will help direct the actions of ARPA-E towards the most promising and appropriate high risk, high return R&D funding opportunities and management strategies. Interested participants may apply to the workshop by sending an email to (link sends e-mail) stating your interest in attending along with the requested information: a) your resume including a description of your expertise in the topic and b) a brief statement on what you see as the key challenges and opportunities facing the topic. Please note there is an attendance fee to defray workshop costs. This event is closed to the media.