Carbon-Optimized Bioconversion

Carbon is a primary component of many materials and most fuels, and as such it is the backbone of the modern global economy. However the global economy’s fundamental reliance on fossil-carbon-based products presents challenges to sustainability, resource management, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. The bioeconomy refers to the global industrial transition to sustainably utilizing renewable biomass (aquatic and terrestrial) resources in energy, intermediate, and final products for economic, environmental, social, and national security benefits.  Systems to enable industrial-scale synthesis of renewable-carbon-based fuels, chemicals, and materials are critical for realizing a robust and sustainable bioeconomy. 

Addressing natural resource constraints and environmental challenges will require new innovations in bioconversion and bioprocessing that will enable optimized biomass feedstock and energy utilization as well as GHG emissions mitigation.  The rapid deployment of renewable power such as wind and solar is driving down both the cost and carbon intensity of electricity, and is creating an opportunity to design new biorefining strategies that take advantage of low-carbon power to improve the efficiency of biomass conversion (e.g. accommodating external reducing equivalents made available from the strategic use low-carbon power). Biomass conversion strategies that enable optimal carbon flux to products will maximize resource inputs, minimize biomass land use requirements, and mitigate lifecycle GHGs simultaneously.

With this workshop, ARPA-E sought information regarding promising pathways toward improving the carbon-conversion efficiency of renewable feedstocks to products. This workshop explored opportunities to reduce the lifecycle carbon emissions from biofuel and bioproduct pathways through highly efficient directed flux of biomass carbon into products with minimal carbon loss as CO2. Workshop participants explored how inexpensive clean power can enable novel bioprocess designs that limit or completely avoid carbon loss during biomass conversion.

September 26

Time Event
8:30-9:00 Registration, Breakfast on your own 

Welcome and Introduction to ARPA-E 

Lane Genatowski, Director, ARPA-E 

Jennifer Gerbi, Associate Director for Technology, ARPA-E 


Workshop Overview, Structure and Desired Outcomes 

David Babson, Program Director, ARPA-E 

9:40-10:00 Attendee Introductions – Table by Table 
10:00-10:30 Networking Break 

Decarbonization and the Changing Electricity Sector 

Jesse Jenkins, Princeton University 


Design and Evolution of Carbon Conservation and Fixation Pathways 

James Liao, Academia Sinica 


Fixing and Converting CO2 and Renewable Electrons to Liquid Fuels 

Greg Stephanopolous, MIT 

12:00-1:00 Lunch / Networking 

Development of Non-Natural Carbon Conserving Biosynthetic Pathways 

Harshal Chokhawala, ZymoChem 


Making Chemicals the Cell-Free Way 

Jim Bowie, UCLA 


Powering Carbon-Optimized Bioconversions 

Ramon Gonzalez, University of South Florida 


Breakout 1 Overview and Objectives 

David Babson, Program Director, ARPA-E 

2:40-3:00 Networking Break 

Breakout Session 1 – Technical Tracks 

Room A, B, C, D breakout discussions on different topics 

4:30 Day 1 Wrap Up (Dinner on your own) 
5:00-7:00 One-on-One Meetings 

September 27

Time Event
8:00-8:30 Breakfast / Networking

Focus and Overview of Day 2 

David Babson, Program Director, ARPA-E 


CO2 Fixation by Anaerobic Non-Photosynthetic Mixotrophy for Improved Carbon Conversion 

Bryan Tracy, White Dog Labs, Inc


Cell-Free Reaction Platforms for Multi-Enzyme Biocatalysis: Challenges & Opportunities 

Claudia Schmidt-Dannert, University of Minnesota 


Breakout 2 Overview and Objectives 

David Babson, Program Director, ARPA-E 

9:50-10:15 Networking Break 

Breakout Session 2 – Program Structure and Metrics 

Room A, B, C, D breakout discussions on the same topic 

11:45-12:00 Day 2 Wrap Up; Closing Thoughts 
12:00 Workshop Concludes (Lunch on your own) 
12:30-2:30 One-on-One Meetings