WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a plan to provide up to $9 million for research on re-engineering microbes both for the production of advanced biofuels and other bioproducts and for the upcycling of polymers to reduce the environmental impact of discarded plastics.

“Microbes are the workhorses of the emerging bioeconomy and hold great promise not only for the conversion of plant biomass into fuels and other bioproducts but also for providing new methods to upcycle discarded polymers and plastics,” said Dr. Chris Fall, Director of DOE’s Office of Science. “This research will bring to bear the most advanced techniques of systems biology to harness microbes and microbial communities for these challenging tasks.”

An aim of the biofuels research is to develop methods to cost-effectively convert plant biomass directly into advanced, energy-dense transportation fuels such as gasoline, diesel, and aviation fuel. The goal of the polymer upcycling effort, meanwhile, is to develop microbial approaches to converting discarded plastics into fuels, industrial chemicals, and other high-value products as a way of ultimately reducing the environmental impact of plastic waste.

Research is expected to make use of a range of sophisticated genomics and other “omics” (e.g., transcriptomics, metabolomics) techniques as well as tools of computation biology.

Applications will be open to universities, industry, and nonprofits as the lead institution, with potential collaborators at the DOE national laboratories and other federal agencies. Funding is to be awarded competitively, based on peer review, and is expected to be in the form of three-year grants beginning in the current fiscal year

Total planned funding is up to $9 million over three years, contingent on congressional appropriations.

The DOE Funding Opportunity Announcement, issued by the Office of Biological and Environmental Research (BER) within DOE’s Office of Science, is to be found on the BER funding opportunities page.