Increasing Carbon Drawdown and Retention in Terrestrial Biomass using Bioengineered Trees

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Special Projects
San Francisco,
Project Term:
08/10/2021 - 08/09/2023

Critical Need:

This topic seeks to support entrepreneurial energy discoveries, by identifying and supporting disruptive concepts in energy-related technologies within small businesses and collaborations with universities and national labs. These projects have the potential for large-scale impact, and if successful could create new paradigms in energy technology with the potential to achieve significant reductions in U.S. energy consumption, energy-related imports, or energy-related emissions. These specific projects address technology areas across ARPA-E’s mission spaces, with particular focus on: Advanced bioreactors; Approaches and tools to create enhanced geothermal systems; Non-evaporative dehydration and drying technologies; Approaches to significantly enhance the rate and/or potential scale of carbon mineralization; Separation of CO2 from ambient air (direct air capture); High-rate separation of dissolved inorganic carbon from the ocean to produce a CO2 stream; Advanced trees and other engineered biological systems for carbon sequestration; Innovative deep ocean collector designs for mining polymetallic nodules; Environmental sensors capable of operation in deep ocean environments for mining polymetallic nodules; and Non-carbothermic smelting technologies. Awards under this topic are working to support research and establish potential new areas for technology development, while providing ARPA-E with information that could lead to new focused funding programs. The focus of these projects is to support exploratory research to establish viability, proof-of-concept demonstration for new energy technology, and/or modeling and simulation efforts to guide development for new energy technologies.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The rate of photosynthetic assimilation and decay of lignocellulosic biomass currently limits carbon drawdown and retention in terrestrial biomass. Living Carbon is developing innovative methods to reduce the susceptibility of vegetative biomass to decay by lignin-eating fungi, thereby reducing the rate of release of carbon dioxide back to the atmosphere through fungal respiration. Living Carbon’s trees resist fungal decay through absorbing small amounts of nickel and copper from the soil and depositing these metals in their xylem (wood) tissue as they grow, which offers a biological strategy to mimic the pressure treatment process that forces copper-based preservatives into lumber to increase its longevity. If these results translate at scale, these trees will improve carbon drawdown on the gigaton scale when planted in managed forests, and lumber from these trees may not require costly and emissions-intensive pressure treatment.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. David Babson
Project Contact:
Dr. Yumin Tao
Press and General Inquiries Email:
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