Acetate as a Platform for Carbon-Negative Production of Renewable Fuels and Chemicals

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Program:
ECOSynBio
Award:
$3,421,197
Location:
Madison,
Wisconsin
Status:
ACTIVE
Project Term:
10/01/2021 - 09/30/2024
Website:

Critical Need:

A robust and sustainable bioeconomy can only be realized through the industrial-scale, carbon-neutral synthesis of fuels, chemicals, and materials. Biofuels, along with a growing number of other sustainable products, are made almost exclusively via fermentation, the age-old technology used to produce foods such as wine, beer, and cheese. Current commercial methods to produce ethanol biofuel from sugar or starches waste more than 30% of the carbon in the feedstock as carbon dioxide (CO2) in the fermentation step alone. This waste limits product yields and squanders valuable feedstock carbon as greenhouse gas CO2. Preventing the loss of carbon as CO2 during bioconversion, or directly incorporating external CO2 as a feedstock into bioconversions, would revolutionize bioprocessing by increasing the product yield per unit of carbon input by more than 50%.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of Wisconsin-Madison aims to develop an integrated process to convert CO2 and renewable H2 into molecules that can be blended with liquid transportation fuels or used in various chemical applications. The project eliminates CO2 release in the production of chemicals by integrating the unique and efficient capabilities of two microorganisms. The first produces acetate from CO2 and H2 while the second upgrades acetate to higher-value chemical products. The CO2 released in the upgrading process is recycled internally to produce more acetate. This carbon utilization process is designed to operate with zero CO2 release. The process offers an alternative paradigm to the current bioeconomy where acetate is the primary energy carrier instead of sugars. The process bypasses photosynthesis and the barriers created by biomass as primary chemical feedstock. It can be scaled to match existing sources of CO2 emissions and located anywhere renewable H2 can be provided. The work will develop microorganisms with optimized metabolism for producing acetate and converting to model products.

Potential Impact:

The application of biology to sustainable uses of waste carbon resources for the generation of energy, intermediates, and final products---i.e., supplanting the “bioeconomy”—provides economic, environmental, social, and national security benefits and offers a promising means of carbon management.

Security:

If successful, the new technologies are expected to catalyze new conversion platforms for biofuels and other high-volume bioproducts that are capable of promoting U.S. energy security by increasing recoverable product from the same mass of feedstock through the avoidance of wasting carbon in the form of CO2.

Environment:

This program funds cutting-edge technologies to de-risk the engineering of carbon optimized bioconversion pathways capable of generating valuable bioproducts such as sustainable aviation fuel without emission of CO2 as a waste product.

Economy:

The technologies funded by this program can increase the potential bioproduct output by more than 40% without requiring another square inch of land or pound of feedstock, while catalyzing the next generation of carbon optimized bio-based manufacturing.

Contact

ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Prof. Brian Pfleger
Press and General Inquiries Email:
ARPA-E-Comms@hq.doe.gov
Project Contact Email:
brian.pfleger@wisc.edu

Partners

University of Kentucky
LanzaTech, Inc.

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Release Date:
05/14/2021