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Microbe converts sludge into ethanol

A joint project of Applied CleanTech and Qteros combines feedstock made from sewage sludge and a microbe-based process for turning cellulose into ethanol.

Two companies said Wednesday that they have developed a method for turning sewage sludge into ethanol.

Israel-based Applied CleanTech and Marlborough, Mass.-based Qteros created a joint development project that combines sewage treatment technology and a microbial process for converting biomass into ethanol.

Applied CleanTech's feedstock which can be used to make electricity or liquid fuels. Applied CleanTech

The method can turn municipal solid waste into a fuel and reduce the amount of sludge processed by traditional treatment facilities, the companies said. Many researchers have been studying ways to extract usable energy from sewage sludge but there are not any commercial operations that make liquid fuel.

Applied CleanTech's core technology, which is already used in treatment plants, extracts the biosolids from raw sewage, which is a way to reduce the overall amount of wastewater that needs to be treated.

In its partnership with Qteros, the biosolids are used as a feedstock to produce ethanol. Qteros, founded two years ago, is developing an ethanol-making process in which a naturally occurring microorganism digests the cellulose in biomass and turns it into ethanol. It's an alternative to the traditional multistep, enzyme-based method.

"Our customer is every municipality that has a waste water treatment plant," said Jeff Hausthor, Qteros co-founder and senior project manager, said in a statement, adding that the process reduces the expense of operating waste water plants.