100 Campus Drive
Marlborough, MA 01752
In just two years, the Qteros team has made remarkable progress enhancing strains of the Q Microbe. Our goal is to keep refining this process until our technology provides the world’s most economical and sustainable transportation energy.
The story of Qteros began in 1996 with a walk near the Quabbin Reservoir in Western Massachusetts. University of Massachusetts microbiologist Dr. Susan Leschine and her lab assistant, Tom Warnick, were looking for a microbe that breaks down plant waste, but they found something far more noteworthy. The microscopic organism they sampled from the mud and later named Clostridium phytofermentans, was isolated and recognized as a novel life form.
Known today as Q Microbe, this tiny organism has an enormous appetite for all types of cellulose and the ability to convert that cellulose directly into ethanol. What the scientists found in a spoonful of dirt has been referred to by the director of the National Renewable Energy Lab as the Holy Grail of cellulosic ethanol.
Qteros has worked with this remarkable microbe to develop and commercialize a pioneering, clean fuel technology that comes from the earth. By overcoming the recalcitrance of cellulose to release the sugars deep within the plant cell wall, the Q Microbe does today what other researchers hope to do sometime in the next decade. The company’s proprietary Complete Cellulosic Conversion (C3) process simplifies and dramatically improves the economics of the equation.
Qteros technology is impressively versatile. It breaks down and ferments many types of non-food plant and tree waste in an ethanol-producing process that doesn’t compete with the food industry. It reduces the conventional two-step conversion process to one step, saving time, money, and energy. In addition, our patented Q Microbe is naturally occurring, and the process is sustainable and very close to carbon neutral.
Creating a clean, sustainable, domestic transportation fuel from non-food sources requires scientific ingenuity and disciplined, hard work. The Qteros team is on the technology development path to achieve this ambitious goal with the Q Microbe.
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The Q Microbe (Clostridium phytofermentans) is a super-bug. This lollipop-shaped microscopic organism has unique properties that make it ideally suited to the production of cellulosic ethanol from a variety of non-food plant materials.
Typically, cellulosic biomass goes through an intensive pretreatment step. Then enzymes are used to break down the biomass into simple sugars suitable for fermentation by yeast into ethanol. These enzymes, along with the intensive pretreatment required for their use, are the largest single-cost component of cellulosic ethanol production. The Qteros team has developed the technology to eliminate the need for a separate enzymatic breakdown step that also broadens pretreatment options.
The Q Microbe breaks down a wide variety of plant materials, including corn residues, cane bagasse, woody biomass, cellulose waste, and more. It produces prodigious amounts of ethanol by generating its own enzymes and then fermenting the C5 and C6 sugars. The microbe can be engineered to optimize ethanol output from a specific plant material, increasing net energy yield for the whole system. It is the “yeast” component of the conventional bioconversion process plus the enzyme component, all in one.
The C3 Process
Overcoming the difficulty and expense of breaking down plant material is one of the biggest challenges facing the emerging cellulosic ethanol industry. Solving this is the key to a low-cost solution, and Qteros has that solution.
In our proprietary Complete Cellulosic Conversion (C3) process, the Q Microbe simultaneously decomposes and ferments cellulosic biomass to ethanol. It converts both cellulose and hemicellulosic plant material. This remarkable microbe not only eliminates the need for costly enzymes, it simplifies the entire ethanol production process, allowing for pre-treatments that are easier on the environment.
Getting More for Less
This ability of the Q Microbe to convert all of the fermentable components of biomass to ethanol enables the C3 process to have higher yields than other bioconversion processes. By avoiding the cost associated with the production, purification, and application of specific enzyme cocktails, it offers cost savings to facilitate large-scale ethanol production from a wide variety of cellulosic biomass. It also allows for a broader range of pretreatment options with further cost savings.