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NREL Collaborating on Five Newly Funded Bioenergy Research Projects Totaling $15.3 Million

Dec. 27, 2019

Funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is fueling five new bioenergy research projects involving National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) scientists.

These projects are among 35 selected by the EERE and will collectively receive a total of $73 million for bioenergy research and development (R&D).

The funding is intended to support research that reduces the price of drop-in biofuels, lowers the cost of biopower, and advances the development of high-value products from biomass or waste resources.

NREL researchers will be collaborating with partners from industry and academia on five projects focused on:

  • Developing innovations that will increase the productivity of advanced algal cultivation systems and then, using a downselect process, identify a small number that have potential to be commercially viable. NREL will contribute expertise in high-throughput screening and compositional profiling of algal biomass in real-world environments. Global Algae Innovations Inc. will lead this research.

  • Producing a jet fuel from cellulosic-derived sugars containing a high concentration of cyclo-paraffins and dicyclo-paraffins, compounds shown to have several advantages over conventional jet fuel. NREL will be supporting the University of Colorado Boulder in this research along with two other collaborators, Royal Dutch Shell and Virent Inc. NREL will use its biomass deconstruction and hydrolysis technology to produce sugars, which Virent’s catalytic conversion technology will then convert to jet fuel.

  • Creating hydrocarbon fuels through enhanced wet waste conversion involving microbial electrosynthesis of volatile fatty acids. NREL will develop novel approaches to use electrons to drive targeted pathways in anaerobic digestion. Upgrading carbon metabolism through electrical stimulation will reduce carbon dioxide emissions and produce higher-value fuel intermediates/blendstocks. Colorado State University will lead this project.

  • Developing a high-throughput design/build/test/learn (DBTL) cycle for polyketide synthases (PKSs) that will increase the commercial relevance of PKSs for production of biofuels and bioproducts. PKSs have the ability to produce diverse organic molecules, including biofuels, commodity chemicals, and specialty chemicals. The availability of a rapid, high-throughput DBTL cycle for polyketide synthases would greatly reduce the time to engineer PKSs to produce a desired product. NREL will leverage its expertise in strain development to engineer strains capable of producing the polyketide precursors. The University of California, Berkeley is leading this research.

  • Bioconverting heterogeneous polyester wastes to high-value chemical products. NREL will lead the techno-economic and life-cycle analysis portions of this project under the direction of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to collaborate with leading academic and industrial partners and are looking forward to developing novel approaches for biofuels and bioproducts,” said Zia Abdullah, NREL's Biomass Laboratory program manager.

More details about the EERE’s bioenergy R&D priorities and the other projects selected for funding are available on DOE’s website.

Learn more about NREL’s bioenergy research.