ARPA-E Announces $70 Million in Funding for New Programs to Power Transportation and Store Carbon in Soil

Selection of 26 projects across two programs will make transportation cleaner and mitigate carbon dioxide emissions

funding, energy innovation, CIRCUITS project

The Energy Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) today announced up to $70 million in funding for its two newest programs: Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) and Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS). REFUEL projects will use water, molecules from the air and electricity from renewable sources to produce high-energy liquid fuels for transportation and other uses. ROOTS projects will tackle the growing problem of soil “carbon debt” by developing sensing technologies to help farmers choose crop varieties that better capture carbon molecules from the atmosphere and store them in their root systems.

ARPA-E invests in programs that draw on a broad set of disciplines and require the bold thinking we need to build a better energy future,” said ARPA-E Director Dr. Ellen D. Williams. “REFUEL’s way of creating fuels from commonly available molecules could drastically change how we power our cars and trucks, while ROOTS projects will help us find crops that trap carbon into the soil and reduce the need for costly, emissions-heavy fertilizers.”

Renewable Energy to Fuels Through Utilization of Energy-Dense Liquids (REFUEL) – $35 Million

Most liquid fuels used in transportation today are derived from petroleum and burned in internal combustion engines. These energy-dense fuels are currently economical, but they remain partially reliant on imported petroleum and are highly carbon intensive. Projects in the REFUEL program will develop scalable technologies for converting water, nitrogen and carbon dioxide into energy-dense carbon-neutral liquid fuels (CNLFs) and back into electricity or hydrogen fuel on demand. The REFUEL program will provide $35 million to 16 projects that will accelerate the shift to domestically produced transportation fuels and enable greater integration of renewable energy sources onto the grid, improving grid resiliency and American energy security.

View details on REFUEL’s 16 projects here.

Rhizosphere Observations Optimizing Terrestrial Sequestration (ROOTS) – $35 Million

Specialized plant breeds could dramatically and economically reduce the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide while providing farmers with benefits in soil quality, reduced need for irrigation and reduced fertilizer use. Improving these plants to increase soil carbon storage represents an untapped opportunity to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere with significant additional economic potential. While advances in agriculture have resulted in a ten-fold increase in crop yield over the past century, soil quality has suffered, diminishing its ability to support healthy crops. Through root and soil measurement and modeling to accelerate breeding activities, 10 projects in the ROOTS program will receive $35 million to develop crops that increase carbon deposition depth and accumulation by 50 percent while also reducing nitrous oxide emissions by 50 percent and increasing water productivity by 25 percent.

View details on ROOTS’ 10 projects here.