Donate to Science & Enterprise

S&E on Mastodon

S&E on LinkedIn

S&E on Flipboard

Please share Science & Enterprise

Cellulosic Ethanol Company to Build R&D Center

The Boston Business Journal reports that Qteros Inc., a Marlborough, Massachusetts company making cellulosic ethanol, will open a new research and development facility in Chicopee, Massachusetts by the end of 2010. CEO John McCarthy tells the Journal the 15,000 square-foot plant will allow for fermentation of biomass on a larger scale than is now possible at its Marlborough location.

McCarthy says the facility will help the company learn more about the cellulosic ethanol production process, in particular the role of what the company calls the Q Microbe. Cellulosic ethanol is made from a variety of plant materials, such as wheat straw, sugar cane, switchgrass and corn cobs, many of which are discarded as waste. Conventional processes for creating ethanol from these biomass feedstocks require first breaking down biomass into into sugar, and then in a separate step, fermenting the sugar into ethanol.

The Q Microbe — otherwise known as Clostridium phytofermentans — is a naturally occurring anaerobic microorganism. This microbe produces enzymes that both break down the biomass into sugar and ferment it into ethanol, thus streamlining the process. The company says this improved process can reduce ethanol production costs by as much as 30 percent.

The microbe itself was discovered by two University of Massachusetts researchers, Susan Leschine and Thomas Warnick, in soil at the Quabbin Reservoir in Massachusetts. The two researchers received a patent for the microbe in May 2010 and licensed the technology to Qteros.

Text corrected: 28 July 2010

Comments are closed.