Carbon-Efficient Conversion of Carboxylic Acids to Fuels and Chemicals

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Irvine, California
Project Term:
09/01/2021 - 05/31/2024

Technology Description:

The University of California, Irvine, proposes a cell-free enzymatic process as the first biological platform to convert carboxylic acids into a broad range of fuels and commodities with greater than 100% carbon efficiency. This is achieved using stabler bioenergy-storage and transmission molecules and specially engineered enzymes. Natural biological pathways for carboxylic acid conversion suffer from a low carbon yield, however. Compared with grain-derived sugars, this project allows carboxylic acids to be produced in large quantities from food and industrial wastes, serving as a more scalable and economical feedstock for biofuel and biochemical production. Scale-up and commercialization of the University of California, Irvine’s transformative cell-free technology will directly enable generation of high-value bioproducts less dependent on cell growth.

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.


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.


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.


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.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Kirk Liu
Project Contact:
Dr. Han Li
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of South Florida
University of California, Davis

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