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Fueling Cars with Feces

Fueling Cars with Feces

A microbe has been found that can break down anything that contains cellulose and turn it into ethanol.

In 1996, Thomas Warnick was exploring the Quabbin Reservoir in Belchertown, Massachusetts, when he came across a tiny microbe with a big name—Clostridium phytofermentans. Warnick, a microbiology research assistant at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was sent to the reservoir to find micro-organisms that could break down plant cellulose. His boss, Susan Leschine, had searched areas as diverse as Brazil, France and Hawaii for these organisms, but she’d never seen anything quite like what Warnick brought back.

The “Q microbe,” as it came to be known, is no ordinary bug. It can ingest—and produce ethanol from—virtually anything that contains cellulose, including human and animal sewage waste. So Qteros, the company Leschine founded to exploit the microbe’s abilities commercially, struck up a partnership with Applied CleanTech (ACT), an Israeli firm that generates alternative energy from wastewater solids. ACT’s sewage-recycling system transforms solids into “recyllose.” It turns out the Q microbe has a sweet tooth for recyllose, converting the cotton-like substance into ethanol for use in automobiles.

Jeff Hausthor, Qteros’ lead researcher, imagines a uniquely local market for this new biofuel. Obviously, waste materials are a burden to farms and municipalities, both financially and ecologically. But by putting the Q microbe to work, small-scale ethanol plants situated around sewage processing plants could become a reality.

Read more: Do Good, Life, Nature & Wildlife, News & Issues, Transportation, , , , , ,

By Dan Schank, Ode Magazine

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Megan, selected from The Intelligent Optimist

Ode, the magazine for Intelligent Optimists, is an international independent journal that publishes positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

129 comments

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6:55PM PDT on Oct 30, 2011

~Very informative article!~Who knew that something useful could be made from human waste~

9:40AM PDT on Jul 8, 2011

This is nothing new.
In the seventies oil crisis, an older guy came up with a clean and inexpensive solution to turn his human waste in a perfectly clean combustible..We never heard from him again. He must have been silenced by the oil industry!
I believe I saw this on ABC and I wrote to them several times to look up in their archives but I did not even receive a response..They too must have been silenced by the oil companies...

2:17AM PDT on Jun 9, 2011

Great idea.

7:42PM PDT on May 29, 2011

thank you very interesting.

1:07AM PDT on May 29, 2011

Thanks for the article.

3:21PM PDT on May 26, 2011

A really interesting article. Humanity demands (needs) to use cars and other energy hungry devices, powering them in a green way much surely be a really good idea. There is probably a down-side to this technology but it sure seems better than relying on imported oil.

1:22AM PST on Jan 22, 2011

Thanks for the info.

1:19AM PST on Nov 23, 2010

Green vehicles function wholly or partially on alternative energy sources like fossil fuels.Hybrid cars may be powered on hydrogen or fossil fuel or electric power.They are the most expensive but also help the vehicle attain high fuel economy really quick!
http://www.thegreenautos.com/

12:55PM PDT on Aug 23, 2010

It is certainly a renewable resource!

11:50AM PDT on Aug 21, 2010

I love reading positive stuff like this! I'm glad that some folks out there, in the name of making a buck are also helping the planet.
Cheers- we should push this next generation into thinking like that, and they could make a lot of money too!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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