Better Enzymes for Carbon Capture

Codexis
Low-Cost Biological Catalyst to Enable Efficient Carbon Dioxide Capture
Graphic of Codexis' technology
Program: 
ARPA-E Award: 
$4,657,045
Location: 
Redwood City, CA
Project Term: 
07/01/2010 to 06/30/2012
Project Status: 
ALUMNI
Technical Categories: 
Critical Need: 
Coal-fired power plants provide nearly 50% of all electricity in the U.S. While coal is a cheap and abundant natural resource, its continued use contributes to rising carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Capturing and storing this CO2 would reduce atmospheric greenhouse gas levels while allowing power plants to continue using inexpensive coal. Carbon capture and storage represents a significant cost to power plants that must retrofit their existing facilities to accommodate new technologies. Reducing these costs is the primary objective of ARPA-E's carbon capture program.
Project Innovation + Advantages: 
Codexis is developing new and efficient forms of enzymes known as carbonic anhydrases to absorb CO2 more rapidly and under challenging conditions found in the gas exhaust of coal-fired power plants. Carbonic anhydrases are common and are among the fastest enzymes, but they are not robust enough to withstand the harsh environment found in the power plant exhaust steams. In this project, Codexis will be using proprietary technology to improve the enzymes' ability to withstand high temperatures and large swings in chemical composition. The project aims to develop a carbon-capture process that uses less energy and less equipment than existing approaches. This would reduce the cost of retrofitting today's coal-fired power plants.
Impact Summary: 
If successful, Codexis' enzymes would enable CO2 capture under the challenging conditions of coal-fired power plants and improve the cost-effectiveness of carbon capture technology.
Security: 
Enabling continued use of domestic coal for electricity generation will preserve the stability of the electric grid.
Environment: 
Carbon capture technology could prevent more than 800 million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere each year.
Economy: 
Improving the cost-effectiveness of carbon capture methods will minimize added costs to homeowners and businesses using electricity generated by coal-fired power plants for the foreseeable future.
Contacts
ARPA-E Program Director: 
Dr. Karma Sawyer
Project Contact: 
Dr. James Lalonde
Partners
Nexant, Inc.