SunEthanol, an Amherst, Mass. biofuels technology company, said it has raised a first round of funding to commercialize the so-called “Q Microbe,” a natural bacteria that helps convert cellulose into ethanol.

VeraSun Energy, Battery Ventures and Long River Ventures, led the investment, the amount of which is undisclosed.

There are at least a dozen companies working on ways to produce cellulosic ethanol, which is cleaner way to make ethanol. The process relies on waste from plants, shrubs and other natural products, and is considered by most scientists as potentially one of the most attractive sources of alternative energy.

According to SunEthanol’s statement:

SunEthanol’s Q Microbe technology, licensed from the University of Massachusetts, has the potential to make the production of ethanol from cellulose economically competitive.

SunEthanol’s Q Microbe represents true consolidated bio-processing (CBP), a technology that consolidates multiple steps into a single efficient and natural process, potentially resulting in a lower cost of production and the ability to convert various forms of biomass into ethanol. It was discovered by University of Massachusetts professor of microbiology, Dr. Susan Leschine in the soil of New England, near the Quabbin Reservoir, and is being developed for cellulosic ethanol production by Dr. Leschine and the SunEthanol lab team. Dr. Leschine serves as a senior advisor to SunEthanol. The team believes that the Q Microbe’s CBP process can be used with a wide variety of plentiful biomass feedstocks including: switchgrass, corn stover, wheat straw, sugar cane bagasse, and wood pulp. It can potentially be used in all parts of the world where biomass is plentiful.

VentureBeat's mission is to be a digital town square for technical decision-makers to gain knowledge about transformative enterprise technology and transact. Learn more about membership.