High Throughput Bioengineering of Switchgrass

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OPEN 2012
Knoxville, Tennessee
Project Term:
02/01/2013 - 07/31/2016

Critical Need:

Widespread use of petroleum-based fuels for transportation contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and makes the U.S. more dependent on foreign oil. Advanced biofuels are a promising renewable alternative to petroleum-based fuels, but with current technology it is not economically feasible to produce them in large quantities. To make advanced biofuels cost-competitive, new, significantly more efficient ways to produce fuels from sustainable biological sources are needed.

Project Innovation + Advantages:

The University of Tennessee (UT) is developing technology to rapidly screen the genetic traits of individual plant cells for their potential to improve biofuel crops. By screening individual cells, researchers can identify which lines are likely to be good cellulosic feedstocks without waiting for the plants to grow to maturity. UT’s technology will allow high throughput screening of engineered plant cells to identify those with traits that significantly reduce the time and resources required to maximize biofuel production from switchgrass.

Potential Impact:

If successful, UT’s screening process could dramatically reduce the time, effort, and cost of producing improved dedicated energy crops.


Increased production of domestic biofuels could help the U.S. diversify our fuel production, reducing our dependence on foreign nations for our energy security.


Because plants naturally absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, the level of greenhouse gas emissions from advanced biofuels is less than half that of petroleum fuels.


Biofuels can be produced domestically, allowing us to keep more dollars at home.


ARPA-E Program Director:
Dr. Joe Cornelius
Project Contact:
Dr. Neal Stewart
Press and General Inquiries Email:
Project Contact Email:


Life Technologies Corporation

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