ARPA-E Microbial Electrocatalysis (Electrofuels)


ARPA_E_MEC_featureAs part of the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program for research on microorganisms that can produce liquid fuels without using petroleum or biomass, a Berkeley Lab-EESA team engineered strains of a common soil bacterium, Ralstonia eutropha, to produce drop-in replacements for gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel using only hydrogen and carbon dioxide as inputs. The team used synthetic biology tools to divert carbon from a storage polymer, polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), to produce medium-chain hydrocarbon molecules from the fatty acid and isoprenoid biosynthetic pathways.

In collaboration with Logos Technologies, the team constructed and implemented a electrochemical bioreactor to generate hydrogen from water using electric current in the presence of the engineered R. eutropha strains. This combination of electrocatalysis and synthetic biology enabled the team to produce drop-in biofuels from water and CO2, a promising alternative to the production of biofuels from plants or algae.

This research was concluded in 2014.

Bi, C., P. Su, J. Müller, Y.-C. Yeh, S. R. Chhabra, H. R. Beller, S. W. Singer, N. J.
Hillson.  2013. Development of a broad-host synthetic biology toolbox for Ralstonia
eutropha and its application to engineering hydrocarbon biofuel production.  Microbial Cell Factories 12:107  doi:10.1186/1475-2859-12-107

Müller, J., D. MacEachran, H. Burd, N. Sathitsuksanoh, C. Bi, Y-C. Yeh, T. S. Lee, N. J., Hillson, S. R. Chhabra, S. W. Singer, and H. R. Beller.  2013. Engineering of Ralstonia eutropha H16 for autotrophic and heterotrophic production of methyl ketones.  Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 79:4433-4439.

Yeh, Y.-C., J. Müller, C. Bi, N. J. Hillson, H. R. Beller, S. R. Chhabra, S. W. Singer.
2013.  Functionalizing bacterial cell surfaces with a phage protein.  Chemical
Communications 49:910-912.