Carbon-Negative Chemical Production Platform

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Project Term:
09/20/2021 - 09/30/2024

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:

LanzaTech will create transformative technology to directly convert CO2 to ethanol at 100% carbon efficiency with technical assistance from the University of Michigan and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The team will develop a novel biocatalyst that leverages affordable, renewable hydrogen (H2) to capture and fix CO2 directly into ethanol, a biofuel and feedstock for valuable products. The core inputs are carbon-free renewable energy, water, and CO2. The alcohol-to-jet process developed by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and LanzaTech Gas fermentation can leverage renewable H2 to potentially convert the approximately 50 million tonnes of CO2 emitted by U.S. corn ethanol production annually to chemical feedstocks and subsequently to sustainable aviation fuel. The carbon-optimized conversion technology developed under this project can be integrated with multiple CO2 sources, such as grain ethanol refining in the near term and direct air capture in the mid-long term.

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. David Babson
Project Contact:
Dr. Steve Brown
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


University of Michigan
Oak Ridge National Laboratory

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