DOE seeks better, cleaner biofuel production through $35M investment into 15 research projects

Published on May 18, 2021 by Chris Galford

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Looking to slash the carbon footprint of biofuel manufacturing while maintaining its production capabilities, the U.S. Department of Energy announced an investment of $35 million last week into 15 new research projects from a mix of academic and lab interests.

Biofuel includes items such as ethanol and biodiesel and is generally created by the process of fermentation. Unfortunately, carbon is also a product of that process, and some efforts waste more than others, creating large amounts of CO2.  Awarded through the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), this investment from the DOE is an extension of the Biden administration’s 100 percent clean energy by 2050 goals and could benefit the energy, transportation, and agriculture sectors. 

“Biofuel is a powerful tool in the clean energy toolkit that has immense potential to power our ships and airlines with zero carbon emissions,” Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said. “DOE is investing in research to reduce emissions and maximize the availability of efficient biofuel as we strive to reach President Biden’s net-zero carbon goals.”  

The organizations benefiting from these awards all focus on five areas:

  • Carbon-optimized fermentation strains that avoid CO2 waste
  • Engineered organisms that can use a mix of energy and carbon sources and avoid evolving CO2
  • Biomass-derived sugar or carbon oxide gas fermentation with internal CO2 recycling
  • Cell-free carbon-optimized biocatalytic biomass conversion and/or CO2 use
  • Cross-cutting carbon-optimized bioconversion methods that have the potential to reduce high-impact emissions 

Awardees include INvizyne Technologies, Inc.; LanzaTech, Inc.; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; Ohio State University; Stanford University; the Wyss Institute of Harvard University; and the Universities of Delaware, California-Davis, California-Irvine, Minnesota, and Washington. ZymoChem, Inc. was awarded two investments.