CIRCE: Circularizing Industries by Raising Carbon Efficiency

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Program:
ECOSynBio
Award:
$2,985,025
Location:
Cambridge,
Massachusetts
Status:
CANCELLED
Project Term:
09/01/2021 - 08/31/2024

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:

The Harvard University team will draw from efficient infrastructures for cheap sugar supply, maturing gas fermentation technology, and sophisticated strategies to engineer fatty acid metabolism. Current bioproduction platforms are limited regarding to carbon efficiency, product versatility or productivity. These platforms have left legacies that will aid Harvard in developing the next generation of carbon-efficient bioproduction, however. It will leverage these to develop a road map for transitioning to a carbon-efficient, highly productive bioeconomy for energy-rich long-chain carbon chemicals with applications in a vast array of industries including fuels, materials, and chemicals.

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. Pam Silver
Press and General Inquiries Email:
ARPA-E-Comms@hq.doe.gov
Project Contact Email:
pamela_silver@hms.harvard.edu

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Release Date:
05/14/2021