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.