ARPA-E holding workshop on increasing efficiency of light collection and bioconversion to liquid fuels

The US Department of Energy’s ARPA-E will hold a workshop on “Applied Biotechnology for Transportation Fuels: Meeting Today’s Energy Needs by Maximizing Photon Capture” on 2 December 2010, in Arlington, Va. There will also be an optional morning session on 3 December 2010 at the same venue.

The workshop will bring together thought leaders from distinct science and engineering communities to develop new ideas and identify practical approaches toward increasing the efficiency of light collection by biological systems and the conversion of that energy into liquid forms of chemical energy that can be used for transportation. Focus will be directed towards the production of high-energy content fuel molecules by photosynthetic systems rather than processes that convert lignocellulose or other sources of biomass to usable fuels.

Specifically, ARPA-E is interested in exploring interdisciplinary project opportunities that combine genomic information, genetic engineering, classical genetic selection, and photobiophysics for:

  • Increasing productive light absorption. How can organisms be engineered to better use the available solar resource for significantly enhanced production of biofuels? Topics may include: expanding the photosynthetically active spectrum, altering the photoprotective response, tailoring the structure and composition of organisms to better capture light, and the introduction of light-powered proton pumps.

  • Altering organism metabolism to increase the energy captured as liquid fuels. After light energy is captured, how can the ideal biological system for the production of biofuels be created? Topics may include: capture of high-energy intermediates, alternatives to RuBisCO carbon fixation, bypassing photorespiration, and redirecting resources towards optimal fuel production.

  • Applying novel genetic selection strategies to optimize fuel production strains. How can novel selection or screening strategies be employed to favor increased liquid fuel yields? Topics may include: development of stable symbiotic co-cultures that increase fuel production, adaptation of production organisms to stresses that favor overproduction of fuel molecules, and sexual selection strategies based on increased energy yields.

Special attention will be directed towards identifying low-cost, scalable strategies to develop highly efficient photosynthetic systems quickly, without requiring extensive, basic, R&D. In general, ARPA-E supports projects that have a high degree of technical or execution risk, beyond the range of typical government R&D funding.

The meeting’s output will help direct the actions of ARPA-E towards the most promising and appropriate high risk, high return R&D funding opportunities and management strategies.

Summaries of the workshop will be provided on the ARPA-E website shortly following the events. Interested participants may apply to the workshop by sending an email to stating your interest in attending along with a CV or resume including a description of relevant expertise in the topic and including a brief statement on key challenges and opportunities currently facing the topic.

This event is closed to the media.

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