BETO 2021 Peer Review - - Rewiring Algal Carbon Energetics for Renewables (RACER)

Research output: NRELPresentation


Critically needed improvements in biomass and biofuel intermediate productivity can be made by addressing fundamental inefficiencies in algal carbon conversion efficiency (CCE) to biofuel intermediates. Algae photosynthesis is, at best, able to convert 5-7% of incident light energy to biomass, while conversion to fuel intermediates falls 15-25% short of its maximum potential due to inefficiencies along the pathways. Recent progress in the Rewiring Algal Carbon Energetics (RACER) project consortium focused on a means to address the above inefficiencies in a pathway from algal biomass to a trifecta of fuel intermediates, ethanol, 2,3-butane diol, lipids and green biocrude. This project engineered a production-relevant algal species Desmodesmus armatus (SE 00107), to demonstrate biomass productivity improvements, with a doubling of the fuel intermediate yields. The new algae biorefinery paradigm embodied in RACER opens opportunities for algae engineering beyond efforts typically targeted solely at lipid content or improved light harvesting efficiency. Parallel approaches showed improved CCE through elimination of wasted energy during photosynthesis and increased carbon flux to transitory carbohydrate storage in the cells. Outdoor operation and nutrient management strategies with improvements in pretreatment, fermentation and extraction in a Combined Algal Processing approach showed a 40% reduction in MFSP, with a combined biofuel productivity of > 3700 gal/acre.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages31
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NamePresented at the U.S. Department of Energy's Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) 2021 Project Peer Review, 8-12, 15-16, and 22-26 March 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/PR-2700-79265


  • algal
  • biofuel
  • biomass
  • biorefinery
  • racer


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